Terrorism in Indonesia: Noordin’s Networks
Terrorism in Indonesia: Noordin’s Networks
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 114 / Asia

Terrorism in Indonesia: Noordin’s Networks

The Indonesian police are closing in on Noordin Mohammed Top, South East Asia’s most wanted terrorist.

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The Indonesian police are closing in on Noordin Mohammed Top, South East Asia’s most wanted terrorist. In a dramatic pre-dawn raid on 29 April 2006 in Wonosobo, Central Java, they shot and killed two members of his inner circle and arrested two others. If and when they capture Noordin, they will have put the person most determined to attack Western targets out of commission. But the problem of Noordin’s support structure will still have to be tackled.

For four years Noordin has tapped into jihadist networks to build a following of diehard loyalists, and those same networks may be available to others. Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the region’s largest jihadist organisation, continues to provide the hard core of that following: the two killed in the Wonosobo raid were longstanding JI members, as was at least one of those arrested. But beginning in 2004, Noordin began reaching out to young men from other organisations and some with no previous organisational affiliation.

Many JI members reportedly see the group he has cobbled together – he grandly calls it al-Qaeda for the Malay Archipelago – as a deviant splinter that has done great harm to the organisation they joined in the mid-1990s. Noordin, however, reportedly sees himself as leading JI’s military wing, even though he answers to no one. He justifies his actions by citing jihadist doctrine that under emergency conditions – for example if surrounded by the enemy – a group of two or three or even a single individual can take on the enemy without instructions from an imam.

This report examines the way in which Noordin has relied on personal contacts to put his group together. It is based on interrogation depositions, court documents, and Indonesian press reports, with information crosschecked through extensive interviews with knowledgeable sources, both official and unofficial.

For the Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta in August 2003, he used a small circle of Sumatra-based JI members who had either been associated with a JI school in Malaysia, Lukman al-Hakiem, or with its prototype, the al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, near Solo, Central Java.

For the Australian embassy bombing in September 2004, he relied on three networks: the East Java division of JI; alumni of JI schools in Central Java; and a West Java-based faction of an old insurgency, Darul Islam, whose members supplied the key operatives. While individuals from that Ring Banten faction had worked with JI before, military operations had never before been outsourced in this way. It was one indication that Noordin was working on his own.

After the embassy bombing, Noordin was short of funds, weapons and experienced fighters. He turned to two men who had access to all these, neither of whom was JI. One was from a different Darul Islam faction with long experience in the Philippines; the other had been head of the Ambon office of the Islamic charity KOMPAK and could mobilise veterans of Indonesian communal conflicts. Intense negotiations followed with couriers used to relay messages between the bosses. It turned out that neither the Darul Islam nor the KOMPAK leader was interested in joining forces but both were arrested in mid-2005 and began to lose control over their followers, some of whom went over to Noordin.

For the second Bali bombing in October 2005, Noordin relied on his inner circle, including the two who were killed on 29 April, to find and train new members. Recruitment appeared to be rather ad hoc, despite written materials attributed to Noordin suggesting a tightly organised cell structure designed to undertake military operations.

Noordin has shown remarkable determination and capacity to plan operations even as he loses his closest colleagues to police dragnets and remains the target of Indonesia’s biggest ever manhunt. It is not clear who among potential successors could do as well.

But his behaviour following Bali II suggests he is running short of money and experienced cadres. The loss on 29 April of the men who served as both couriers and recruiters has to be a significant blow. The Wonosobo raid was a triumph for the police, and Noordin’s arrest will be an even greater one. But the networks he drew on will survive as a potential source of recruits for future operations.

Jakarta/Brussels, 5 May 2006

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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