Indonesia Backgrounder: Jihad in Central Sulawesi
Indonesia Backgrounder: Jihad in Central Sulawesi
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 74 / Asia

Indonesia Backgrounder: Jihad in Central Sulawesi

Recent violence in Poso (Central Sulawesi) suggests a need to revise assessments about the nature and gravity of the terrorist threat in Indonesia. While the shorter term prospects are somewhat encouraging, there is an under appreciated longer term security risk.

Executive Summary

Recent violence in Poso (Central Sulawesi) suggests a need to revise assessments about the nature and gravity of the terrorist threat in Indonesia. While the shorter term prospects are somewhat encouraging, there is an under appreciated longer term security risk.

In October 2003, masked gunmen attacked Christian villagers in the Morowali and Poso districts of Central Sulawesi, killing thirteen. The attacks took many outside the area by surprise. In December 2001, after three years of bitter sectarian conflict in which hundreds of Muslims and Christians had been killed, leaders of the warring parties had signed a peace agreement, the Malino Accord, which produced a dramatic decline in communal clashes. However, systematic, one-sided violence – bombings and “mysterious killings” by unidentified assailants, with overwhelmingly non-Muslim victims – continued. The October 2003 attacks thus continued a well-established pattern.

The difference was that with the heightened attention to terrorism in Indonesia and the wealth of information available to the police from captured Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members about activities in Poso, security authorities moved quickly. Many of the eighteen people arrested as of January 2004 appear to have had some contact with JI through involvement in a militia called Mujahidin KOMPAK, an organisation whose leaders were sometimes drawn from JI, but which remained institutionally distinct.

This report explores how Mujahidin KOMPAK was created, how it came to Poso, and how it cooperated and competed with JI. It concludes that both organisations aimed to build the capacity of local groups to wage jihad without outside assistance. Since almost all those arrested for the October violence are local, they may have succeeded. (One suspect killed by police is believed to have been from Java and an alumnus of Pondok Ngruki, the religious school in Central Java from which many JI bombers have come.)

The two organisations had very different approaches to capacity-building, however. JI focused on religious indoctrination as an absolute prerequisite to war. Mujahidin KOMPAK was more interested in getting its recruits into battle as quickly as possible. JI was seen as slow and bureaucratic, Mujahidin KOMPAK as leaner, meaner, and quicker.

The impatience of some Mujahidin KOMPAK leaders (themselves also JI) with JI’s approach reflected a deeper split within JI over how, where, and when to wage jihad. A key fault line was between those associated with Hambali, including most of the people involved in the Bali and Marriott bombings, who have been particularly influenced by al-Qaeda’s 1998 fatwa urging attacks on Western targets, and what appears to be the majority faction in the organisation. That faction sees the fatwa’s implementation as inappropriate for Indonesia and damaging to the longer-term strategy of building a mass base through religious outreach.

The prevailing assumption has been that JI is the only organisation with the expertise, international ties, and ideology to constitute a likely partner in South East Asia for al-Qaeda or another international terrorist group. Analysis of the Poso conflict indicates that this risk analysis of radical Muslim violence in Indonesia needs to be revised. The rift within JI described in this report suggests that if the men associated with the Hambali faction can be captured – and several key figures are still at large – the immediate threat of another Bali or Marriott-style attack by JI in Indonesia could substantially ease.

JI’s majority faction, however, will continue to constitute a longer-term security threat for Indonesia. This is not only because its leaders believe that military force is necessary to achieve an Islamic state, but also because the religious indoctrination and recruitment efforts they are engaged in are likely to produce at least some cadres more hot-headed than their teachers, who look beyond Indonesia to a more international agenda.

At the same time, it is increasingly clear that there are many smaller, local groups in Indonesia, some of whose members have Afghan or Mindanao training, whose deep-seated grievances could lead them to draw inspiration from the bin-Laden fatwa. It is, of course, one thing to draw inspiration and another to work with a group like al-Qaeda to pull off a major attack. But it could be precisely the shorter, “results-oriented” training and the attraction of martyrdom that could make men like those who joined Mujahidin KOMPAK in Poso more dangerous than the “bureaucrats” of JI.

It remains important to keep the threat of terrorism in perspective. Indonesia is not about to be overrun with jihadists. They remain the radical fringe of a radical fringe. Their capacity to do damage, however, continues to be cause for serious concern.

The counter-terrorism lessons from Poso include:

  • Far more attention needs to be paid to understanding recruitment methods of jihadist organisations, not just JI but also local groups with more parochial concerns.
  • More attention also needs to be given to the religious indoctrination these groups undertake, while understanding that the same material taught by different teachers can lead in very different directions.
  • Top priority should be to prevent the emergence of the kind of international training center that Afghanistan provided in the past. The personal bonds established there are almost certainly more important than ideology or money in facilitating partnerships among jihadist groups.
  • Democratic reforms, especially an impartial, credible legal system, a neutral and competent law enforcement agency, and better access to justice, remain absolutely essential to preventing the kind of vigilantism that radical groups can manipulate.

Jakarta/Brussels, 3 February 2004

Op-Ed / Asia

Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force

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.

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