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 3 minutes

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

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