Weakening Indonesia's Mujahidin Networks: Lessons from Maluku and Poso
Weakening Indonesia's Mujahidin Networks: Lessons from Maluku and Poso
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Report 103 / Asia

Weakening Indonesia's Mujahidin Networks: Lessons from Maluku and Poso

In the wake of a second terrorist attack on Bali, the need to understand Indonesia's violent jihadist networks is greater than ever.

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Executive Summary

In the wake of a second terrorist attack on Bali, the need to understand Indonesia's violent jihadist networks is greater than ever. Two incidents in May 2005 -- the execution of paramilitary police in Ceram, Maluku, and the bombing of a market in Tentena, Poso -- offer case studies of how those networks are formed and operate. Weakening the networks is key to preventing further violence, including terrorism. In Maluku and Poso, sites of the worst communal conflicts of the immediate post-Soeharto period, one place to start is with programs aimed at ex-combatants and imprisoned mujahidin due for release. These men are often part of networks that extend beyond the two conflict areas, but if they can be "reintegrated" into civilian life, their willingness to support mujahidin elsewhere in Indonesia and engage in violence themselves might be lessened. Addressing broader justice and security issues would also help.

A study of the Ceram and Tentena incidents suggests that the conflict areas continue to be home to "leftover mujahidin" who went there to fight from other parts of the country and never left; who returned home but maintained regular contact with people they had trained or fought with there; or who were locally recruited and continued to be active in jihadist circles long after the conflicts waned.

Violent jihadist networks remain strong in these areas for several reasons:

  • members of the major jihadist organisations in Indonesia -- Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), some splinters and offshoots of Darul Islam (DI), KOMPAK and others -- see Maluku and Poso as areas where "enemies of Islam", including local Christians, continue to pose a threat to the Muslim community;
  • they believe that parts of Maluku and Poso, but particularly Poso, have the potential to develop into a qoidah aminah, a secure area where residents can live by Islamic principles and apply Islamic law: in their view, such a base could then serve as the building block of an Islamic state, and Maluku and Poso thus remain a focus for religious outreach and recruitment efforts;
  • for some fighters, both local and non-local, the combination of military training and active combat may have been the most meaningful experience of their lives: it may be difficult for them to return to more mundane "civilian" life unless better options emerge; and
  • the concentration of ex-mujahidin has made both areas attractive to fugitives who in the past have found a ready support network there.

The Ceram attack on a paramilitary police post on 16 May 2005, in particular, shows how a disparate group of men linked through various networks can come together and form a team of operatives. The attack involved members of KOMPAK, Darul Islam, a Poso-based organisation, and perhaps JI, but the hit squad does not appear to have been organised through any institutional hierarchy. The common experience of training and fighting during the early stages of the Poso and Maluku conflicts appears to be more important as the organising principle. Those ties were also sufficiently strong to draw the attackers together from Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra and Maluku.

The bomb in the marketplace of the Christian town of Tentena, Poso, is more mysterious. The investigation has produced over a dozen arrests but no clear suspect. It has highlighted the complexity of the networks involved in other recent violence in the area, going beyond mujahidin circles to include local officials and gang leaders.

One need in these conflict areas is for better law enforcement. Problems are of long standing and not entirely of current incumbents' making, but police practices, particularly wrongful arrests and ill-treatment of detainees, have alienated local communities, making people unwilling to help investigations. The failure of government security forces in the past to provide protection to threatened communities means people who take the law into their own hands are treated as heroes. Prosecutors, lawyers and judges have been subjected to intimidation and worse, and perpetrators of violence have often received questionable acquittals or rejoined their networks after serving short sentences.

Several measures would help: better treatment of detainees, control over access to firearms, better coordination among intelligence agencies, and serious punishment for serious crimes.

A second need is for direct engagement with local veterans of the Poso and Maluku violence to reintegrate them back into "civilian" life. One possibility is to link a reintegration program to the "assimilation" program of the Indonesian prison system, whereby those about to be released are allowed to work outside prison during the day under closely supervised conditions. This could be a vehicle for trying to introduce members of these networks to new social contacts while at the same time giving them viable alternatives to violence.

Jakarta/Brussels, 13 October 2005

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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