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Indonesia Backgrounder: How The Jemaah Islamiyah Terrorist Network Operates
Indonesia Backgrounder: How The Jemaah Islamiyah Terrorist Network Operates
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 43 / Asia

Indonesia Backgrounder: How The Jemaah Islamiyah Terrorist Network Operates

As the Indonesian-led investigation proceeds, the Bali attack on 12 October 2002 looks more and more like the work of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). But what exactly is Jemaah Islamiyah and how does it operate?

Executive Summary

As the Indonesian-led investigation proceeds, the Bali attack on 12 October 2002 looks more and more like the work of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). But what exactly is Jemaah Islamiyah and how does it operate? It is one thing to describe, as many have by now, a network of Islamic radicals extending across Southeast Asia, led by Indonesian nationals, with a loose structure characterised by four territorial divisions known as mantiqis that cover peninsular Malaysia and Singapore; Java; Mindanao, Sabah, and Sulawesi; and Australia and Papua respectively.

It is another to get a feel for how people are drawn into the network, what characteristics they share, what motivates them, and what resources they can draw on.

ICG examined earlier bombings in Indonesia linked to JI to try to answer some of these questions. There was no shortage of cases: JI has been linked to dozens of deadly attacks across Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia from 1999 to the present. ICG looked in particular, however, at the Christmas Eve bombings of December 2000, in part because they covered so much territory: more than 30 bombs were delivered to churches or priests in eleven Indonesian cities across six provinces, all wired to explode around the same time. If we could understand who the foot soldiers were from one end of the country to the other, perhaps we could get a better sense of JI as an organisation.

The report, therefore, takes the Christmas Eve bombings in Medan, North Sumatra; Bandung and Ciamis, West Java; and Mataram, Lombok, in Nusa Tenggara Barat Province as a starting point. Using trial documents, police information, and extensive interviews, it examines the network linked to JI in each area. Research for this report was conducted over a two-month period by a team consisting of ICG staff and consultants.

Several findings emerge:

  • JI does appear to operate through cells but with a rather loosely organised and somewhat ad hoc structure. The top strategists appear to be protégés of Abdullah Sungkar, the co-founder with Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, of Pondok Ngruki, a pesantren (religious boarding school) in Central Java, mostly Indonesian nationals living in Malaysia, and veterans of the anti-Soviet resistance or, more frequently, the post-Soviet period in Afghanistan. A trusted second tier, who share many of those characteristics, appear to be assigned as field coordinators, responsible for delivering money and explosives and for choosing a local subordinate who can effectively act as team leader of the foot soldiers.

The bottom rung, the people who drive the cars, survey targets, deliver the bombs, and most often risk arrest, physical injury, or death, are selected shortly before the attack is scheduled. They are mostly young men from pesantrens (religious boarding schools) or Islamic high schools. The schools that provide the recruits are often led by religious teachers with ties to the Darul Islam rebellions of the 1950s or to Pondok Ngruki.

  • Until the Bali attack, the motivation for bombings appears to have been revenge for massacres of Muslims by Christians in Indonesia –Maluku, North Maluku, and Poso (Central Sulawesi) where communal conflict erupted in 1999 and 2000. With a few exceptions, such as the attack on the residence of the Philippine ambassador in Jakarta in August 2000, the targets were mostly churches and priests. Recruitment of foot soldiers was often preceded by discussions about Maluku and Poso or the showing of videos about the killings taking place there. Those conflicts not only served to give concrete meaning to the concept of jihad, a key element of JI’s ideology, but also provided easily accessible places where recruits could gain practical combat experience.

The U.S.-led war on terror now appears to have replaced Maluku and Poso as the main object of JI’s wrath, especially as those conflicts have waned, and the targeting in Bali of Westerners, rather than Indonesian Christians, may be indicative of that shift.

  • Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, now under arrest in a police hospital in Jakarta, is the formal head of Jemaah Islamiyah, but a deep rift has emerged between him and the JI leadership in Malaysia, who find him insufficiently radical. Ba’asyir undoubtedly knows far more than he has been willing to divulge about JI operations, but he is unlikely to have been the mastermind of JI attacks.
     
  • A curious link appears in the Medan Christmas Eve bombing between the Acehnese close to JI and Indonesian military intelligence, because both are bitterly opposed to the Acehnese rebel movement, Gerakan Aceh Merdeka or GAM. This link needs to be explored more fully: it does not necessarily mean that military intelligence was working with JI, but it does raise a question about the extent to which it knew or could have found out more about JI than it has acknowledged.

This is a background report, containing more in the nature of conclusions than familiar ICG recommendations. But there are three courses of action which the Indonesian government authorities should, in the light of our findings, certainly now pursue:

  • Reopen investigations into earlier bombings, with international assistance if possible, as to an extent is being done, but as a top priority and with a new investigation strategy involving systematic pooling of all information from across the country and review of cases where “confessions” were alleged to have been extracted under torture.
     
  • Strengthen intelligence capacity and coordination, but through a focus on the Indonesian police, rather than on the National Intelligence Agency (Badan Intelijen Nasional) or the army.
     
  • Address corruption more seriously in the police, army, and immigration service, with particular attention to the trade in arms and explosives.

Jakarta/Brussels, 11 December 2002

Op-Ed / Asia

Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force

Originally published in The Interpreter

My four year-old daughter recently came home from her Jakarta kindergarten with a story about a visit to the school from the head of our local police station. 'If there is a robber and he's running away, the policeman will pull out his gun, fire in the air, and if he doesn't stop then he will shoot him in the leg', she recounted breathlessly.

I have spent 25 years working in and around conflict zones, including more than a decade in Indonesia. My reaction might not have been that of the average parent. 'That', I replied, 'is a violation of Perkap Number 8.' Needless to say, my reference to Police Regulation Number 8 of 2009 regarding Implementation of Human Rights Principles and Standards in the Discharge of Duties of the Indonesian National Police was lost on her. She thought the visit was great.

I had recalled Perkap 8 when re-reading the Hansard of the recent sparring between Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr and Victoria Greens Senator Richard Di Natale over the police shooting of protesters in Papua. But it is not just in Papua where questionable use of deadly force by the Indonesian National Police (INP) takes place. It happens across the country. And this was what Perkap 8 was put in place to prevent.

Article 47 of Perkap 8 says that 'the use of firearms shall be allowed only if strictly necessary to preserve human life' and 'firearms may only be used by officers: a. when facing extraordinary circumstances; b. for self defense against threat of death and/or serious injury; c. for the defense of others against threat of death and/or serious injury.' This is Indonesian law, taken from the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and this is what should be used to assess police actions, wherever in the country they occur.

The fatal shooting on 14 June 2012 of Mako Tabuni, deputy head of the National Committee of West Papua (KNPB), in Jayapura, capital of Papua province, made Senate Estimates in 2012. The shooting of three protesters in Sorong on 30 April 2013, West Papua province, was mentioned in the testy 5 June 2013 exchanges between Senators Carr and Di Natale. You can watch it above.

In the first incident, detectives shot a suspect in the leg as he was running away and then left him to die in a hospital allegedly without making any effort to treat his wounds. In the second, police claim they were threatened by armed KNPB activists. Without more information it is difficult to judge if their response was disproportionate. Police always say they are shooting in self-defense, but it has become such a common excuse that it has started to lose its plausibility.

Cases outside Papua do not garner much attention in Australia, but lethal shootings happen all the time. On 1 September 2011 seven villagers were killed during a rowdy protest against police brutality in the Central Sulawesi district of Buol, a place so obscure even most Indonesians cannot find it on a map.

On 7 March 2013, soldiers burned down a police station in Baturaja, South Sumatra, after their off-duty comrade, First Private Heru Oktavianus, was shot dead by a police officer while speeding away from a traffic violation.

On 8 May 2013 police in Java killed six suspected terrorists in a series of raids. The police usually claim the suspects were armed and resisted arrest. But it is not always true, and many could have almost certainly been captured alive.

Ordinary criminals are shot with distressing frequency, as my daughter's visitor suggests, without any outcry at home or abroad.

Perkap 8 was signed by the then police chief Sutanto, a real reformer. It has not gotten very far. One foreign police officer working on a bilateral community policing program in a large metropolitan command told me he had once seen a copy of the Perkap on the chief's desk but suspected it had been disseminated no further.

Even when progressive regulations or orders are issued and disseminated, they are not always followed. In October 2012, the police chief of Papua, Tito Karnavian, former head of the anti-terrorism unit Detachment 88 (Densus 88), announced that he had banned police from using live ammunition when handling demonstrations in the region. This was progress and it was implemented for some demos, but the deaths in the Sorong case suggest live ammunition was used.

As Article 46 of Perkap 8 says, 'all officers must be trained in the use of power, equipment and firearms that can be used in applying force' and 'must be trained in non-violent techniques and methods.' Training almost 400,000 officers across 33 provinces is a logistical challenge, though it might be a good idea to start with elite units such as Densus 88 or personnel in the Papua provinces.

The new national head of the INP, about to be appointed, might breathe new life into two reforms already in place: implementation of Perkap 8 and Chief Sutanto's other landmark regulation on community policing, Perkap 7. The INP is a very hierarchical organisation that does follow firm orders from above. While its size makes complex reform difficult, its hierarchical nature makes implementing existing regulations with firm orders easier.

The first duty of the incoming INP chief, who reports directly to the president, will be to secure the 2014 elections. Making sure those deployed to safeguard this 'festival of democracy' are properly trained and equipped to use non-lethal force will be an important first step. After a new head of state is elected, he or she should consider issuing a directive that would see Perkap 8 properly implemented. The use of less deadly force could even be politically popular in some parts.

Outside help may also be needed, and this is where Australia comes in. A few decades back, the Victorian state police had a problem of using too much deadly force and created Project Beacon to try to rectify it. They changed the way they thought about the problem, overhauled training, and gave officers on the beat new tools, like pepper spray. Foreign assistance along these lines could help the INP improve performance and increase accountability. Crisis Group has long argued that the INP needs better orders, training, and equipment for the use of non-deadly force.

If the INP is to be more the service it aspires to be rather than the force it is, it needs to shed its military mindset, hold serious post-operation reviews after each fatal incident, and decrease reliance on shooting first and asking questions later, regardless of whether officers are following locally accepted standard procedure. When the time comes and the INP is ready to carry forward the reform of Perkap 8, Australia should be there to help.