Friday, March 26, 2010

Terrorism Still a Clear and Present Danger to Indonesia

The arrest of more terrorist suspects indicates not only that the country has the potential to develop into a extremist haven but that the threat of terrorism is still very much present, despite the string of recent success in battling them. The arrests show that there could be more sleeper cells in the country or that new networks are being built, and the police must not lower their guard.

Another telltale sign is that terror cells are no longer confined to particular regions and are slowly spreading across the archipelago like gangrene. The latest arrests were made in Jakarta and Bekasi in Java, although all three were allegedly involved in an armed group of suspected terrorists discovered in Aceh on the westernmost tip of Sumatra.

The group had been hunted in the forested hills of Aceh since their training camp was raided on Feb. 22. Seven terrorist suspects have since been killed, while 33 others were captured alive. A key figure, Dulmatin, who topped the region’s most-wanted terrorist list, was also slain during a raid in Tangerang near Jakarta this month, far from Aceh where the group he allegedly built and ran was operating.

Terrorism analysts have said Indonesia was sorely lacking in monitoring convicted terrorists it has released from prison, leading to fears that they have been able to form new groups that were much more active than Jemaah Islamiyah, the regional terrorist network blamed for a string of fatal bomb attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings that left 202 dead. This is a serious concern if true.

Although officials said they were making efforts to reform convicted terrorists, the results are questionable. As a leading terrorism expert pointed out, several freed militants are believed to have resumed their former lives after being released, including Enceng Kurnia, alias Arham, who was convicted in 2004 for his involvement in a bomb attack outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta; and Deni Suramto, alias Toriq, and Abdullah Sonata, who were arrested in 2005 for sheltering terror mastermind Noordin M Top.

Battling terrorism is not a mere question of taking the terrorists dead or alive. It is not a mere question of preventing their attack plans from being carried out. The root causes of terrorism are many and complex, but everyone agrees that poverty and injustice, including the lack of economic opportunities, are among them.

The longer-term solution to this problem must be greater and more equitable economic growth. Terrorism attracts people, especially the young, who are economically disadvantaged and are thus susceptible to extreme ideology. But this is not something that can be remedied within a short time. In the interim, everyone, not just the police, must remain alert to the threat. Editorial Jakarta Globe

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