Jihadism in Indonesia: Poso on the Edge
Jihadism in Indonesia: Poso on the Edge
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report / Asia 3 minutes

Jihadism in Indonesia: Poso on the Edge

After eight months of trying to induce surrenders, the Indonesian police have conducted two major raids this month in Poso, Central Sulawesi, to arrest a group of men, most local members of the terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), wanted for a range of bombings, beheadings and drive-by shootings.

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Executive Summary

After eight months of trying to induce surrenders, the Indonesian police have conducted two major raids this month in Poso, Central Sulawesi, to arrest a group of men, most local members of the terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), wanted for a range of bombings, beheadings and drive-by shootings. Peaceful efforts had clearly failed but the high death toll from the second raid has turned the wanted men into victims. A jihad that has been largely directed against local Christians could now be focused on the police as a thoghut (anti-Islamic force) and give a boost to Indonesia’s weakened jihadi movement. The urgent task now is for the government to work with Muslim leaders to explain in detail who the suspects were and why force was used. It also should examine how police operations were conducted to see if further measures could have been taken to prevent casualties. Authorities likewise need to begin addressing a wide range of local grievances.

Just after dawn on 22 January 2007 Indonesian police moved in on a quiet Poso street. They found themselves confronting not just the men they sought but a much larger and heavily armed resistance, including mujahidin from elsewhere in the Poso area and several from Java. By the end of the day, one policeman and fourteen others were dead, and several on both sides wounded. Some two dozen were arrested as they fled.

This was the second attempt in two weeks to forcibly arrest more than twenty men who had been on a wanted list since May 2006. On 11 January, police raided the houses where they were believed to be hiding, killing two, arresting six and seizing a sizeable collection of weapons.

There were already indications that the suspects and their sympathisers, in an effort to enlist mujahidin from outside their own group, were portraying police operations as an attack on Muslims. Any deaths in the course of the operations would strengthen their hand, and they now have at least sixteen men from the two raids whom they will almost certainly claim as martyrs, or seventeen, counting a young man killed in October 2006 in a clash with police. One danger now is that the jihadis will try to take the anti-thoghut war outside Poso, targeting police in other cities.

Another danger is that the JI faction that opposes bombings of Western targets and sees Noordin Mohammed Top, South East Asia’s most wanted terrorist and the man believed to be behind some of Indonesia’s deadliest bombings, as a deviant, will see this jihad as legitimate.

Finally there is the possibility that some of the fugitives might try to get to Java to join forces with Noordin. The Poso mujahidin are experienced in targeted assassinations, a tactic that has not been used outside conflict areas. While the likelihood of an operational link-up between the two groups is slight, the addition of even one experienced sniper to Noordin’s group could be lethal.

Even if these dangers are avoided and the remaining suspects are arrested, no one should be complacent that the violence in Poso is over. There is too much unfinished business from the communal conflict there that reached its height in 2000-2001. Some mujahidin speak of the need to have children quickly so that a new generation of fighters can be produced. Even as the government continues its security operations, a more comprehensive approach to the conflict is urgently needed.

This report examines how one neighbourhood in Poso became a JI stronghold and how a small group of men managed to terrorise the city for three years before their identities became known. It looks at the links between the JI structures in Poso and Java and the local grievances and resentments driving the ongoing violence and analyses the way forward.

Jakarta/Brussels, 24 January 2007

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