Terrorism: What we have learned from Aceh
Terrorism: What we have learned from Aceh
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Op-Ed / Asia

Terrorism: What we have learned from Aceh

The discovery of the terrorist training camp in Aceh and presence of Dulmatin in Pamulang came as a major surprise to me and many others, and there are many lessons to be learned.

  1. The extremist networks are mutating

    The group around Dulmatin and “Tanzim al-Qaeda for Serambi Mekkah” was not Jemaah Islamiyah, even though Dulmatin, like Noordin Top, had been inducted (dibai’at) into JI. In fact in the video produced by the group -- that appeared briefly on YouTube on 8 March -- exhorts Indonesians to join the jihad but harshly criticizes JI as an organization for sitting around and doing nothing. The men who joined the Aceh group were men who were alienated from JI and wanted more action. In fact, the group seems to have consisted of disaffected elements from a number of different organizations including JI, Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), Mujahidin KOMPAK, Wahdah Islamiyah and others. This suggests that as many in the above organizations have moved away from violence, a more militant stream of the extremist movement has arisen that identifies strongly with al-Qaeda and seeks to build on the legacy of Noordin Top.
  2. The international linkages are stronger than we thought

    Dulmatin and Umar Patek were in Mindanao for seven years, first with the MILF, then with the Abu Sayyaf Group, before they returned to Indonesia. The fact that they came home to join Indonesian militants suggests that communication and coordination between Indonesia and extremists in Mindanao were more extensive than we thought, and that Dulmatin and his friends may have considered themselves the Philippines component of al-Qaeda for Southeast Asia – the name that Noordin gave his network at the time of the second Bali bombing.

    But the links go beyond the Philippines. Moh. Jibriel, now on trial in Jakarta, told friends that in late 2007, he had visited Waziristan, where the Pakistani Taliban has its base. Jibriel was a member of JI’s “al-Ghuraba group” that was helping Southeast Asians, mostly Indonesians and Malaysians, get to Afghanistan for training between 1999 and 2003. Those contacts almost certainly still exist, and there were rumors, never confirmed, of Indonesians returning from Afghanistan earlier this year. We have to accept that there is a strong likelihood that Indonesia’s terrorist network is in direct communication with senior leaders of terrorist groups in Pakistan, and perhaps in the Middle East and North Africa as well.
  3. The terrorists will continue to look for a “secure base”

    The leaders of this composite group reportedly chose Aceh because they were looking for a “qoidah aminah” or secure base. During the Poso conflict, and especially after 2001, JI saw Poso as the qoidah aminah, a place where it would be able to both wage jihad, expand the community of Muslims willing to apply Islamic law in full, and work toward a daulah islamiyah or Islamic state. But after police operations in January 2007, many of the radicals were arrested, killed or forced to flee, and it was clearly no longer an ideal base. Aceh was probably attractive in part because it is the only place in Indonesia where Islamic law can be applied in full. In addition, many radical groups had set up shop in Aceh after the tsunami, and there was a network of contacts that did not exist earlier. The JI and old Darul Islam networks in Medan, Riau and Lampung probably helped.

    Now that the Aceh group has been broken up, there will almost certainly be another attempt to find and establish a secure base – the question is where.
  4. There is no shortage of potential leaders or recruits

    After Noordin’s death, everyone here breathed a huge sigh of relief and many thought the terrorism problem was over. It’s not. There are other men with charisma and combat experience obtained in Mindanao, Poso, and Ambon who can take over, and a whole new generation coming up in JI’s schools. It is not just coincidence that Dulmatin’s children were enrolled at one of these schools in Sukoharjo or that the Singaporean terrorist and escape artist, Mas Selamat Kastari, sent his son to another.  A pesantren in Aceh not linked to JI played a role in recruitment. The problem is not just in schools -- one Acehnese drug dealer was recruited in a Medan prison, and Syaifudin Zuhri recruited the July suicide bombers at a neighborhood mosque in Bogor. But a few dozen schools remain a serious problem, and we need to find creative ways to prevent them from producing the terrorists of 2020 in a way that does not stigmatise the Islamic education system more generally.
  5.  On-the-ground intelligence remains weak across the region

    Dulmatin and Umar Patek were operating in Jolo where US Special Forces, with the most sophisticated equipment available, are helping the Philippines armed forces, and yet no one picked up that two of the most wanted men in the region had left Mindanao, arrived in Indonesia and traveled to Aceh.  The US has not found Osama bin Laden, either, so officials in Southeast Asia are in good company, and ability to elude security forces is one mark of a good terrorist leader. Nevertheless, there is probably room for improvement in gathering and analyzing information.

    Cross-border work is particularly important. There has been enormous improvement over the last decade in regional information-sharing, but the Indonesian police have no real expertise on terror networks in the Philippines, the Philippines on Malaysian groups or anyone in Southeast Asia on South Asia and vice versa. Increasingly it’s becoming critical for all those involved in counter-terrorism activities to understand the dynamics beyond their own borders to understand how the various groups  link up now or might in the future.
  6. Targets can shift

    We have seen the extremists change and broaden their definition of the enemy over time. At the height of the Ambon and Poso conflicts, the enemy was clearly local Christians. In Poso, this was expanded to include informers and government officials, like a Palu prosecutor who was murdered, who were seen to be working against the jihad. The Bali bombs in 2002 were the first indication that the al-Qaeda definition of the enemy – the U.S. and its allies and all citizens who paid taxes to support the war machines in those countries – had been adopted. The focus may be moving back toward Indonesian officials considered thoghut, or tantamount to infidels because of their alliance with the West, opposition to shari’a, or policies generally considered unIslamic. In July, the Noordin network was planning an attack on President Yudhoyono; it may be that now prominent officials are as high on the list of ideal targets as iconic buildings with internationally known brand names.

    All this adds up to the fact that it was wrong to be complacent after the death of Noordin, and it is wrong to think that the threat  of terrorism is significantly reduced by the death of Dulmatin. Extremists  in Indonesia have shown an ability to adapt, regroup, regenerate and fight on.

Indonesia needs to step up its counter-terrorism efforts but the police, who know more about these networks than anyone else, should have the lead role. There should be brainstorming with people from other countries that have sophisticated community-based programs to understand what has worked, what hasn’t and why, and what might be adapted to local circumstances in Indonesia. Preventing recruitment is more than publishing books with alternative interpretations of jihad and more than interfaith dialogues. It involves strengthening the ability of young people and their parents to understand the warning signs of radicalization and have programs in place that can help stem the process. It involves offering different life options and career choices to students in radical schools. It involves making life difficult for jihadi publishers without resorting to banning books, including by ensuring they pay taxes on every penny of profit. It involves teaching tolerance in elementary schools, so values that militate against extremism are inculcated at an early age. Terrorism is not going to be eradicated any time soon, but there is still much that the government, civil society and the private sector can do.

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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