Monday, June 28, 2010

Indonesia’s War on Terror to Last Longer than Expected

One thing is certain following the latest crackdown on suspected terrorists in the Central Java town of Klaten on Wednesday: The country’s war on terror will last far longer than we may have thought.

The police anti-terror squad, or Detachment 88, arrested Abdullah Sunata and his accomplices, including an Army deserter, after months of a manhunt that began following a raid that killed long-time fugitive Jamaah Islamiyah figure Dulmatin last March and two more forays on a terror network in East Jakarta and the West Java town of Karawang last month.

Police suspect Sunata of involvement in a series of bomb attacks, recruitment of terrorists and a planned assassination of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and foreign guests during a scheduled Independence Day ceremony on Aug. 17. Sunata’s group also plotted an attack on the Danish Embassy in revenge of the globe-wide criticized publication of a cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad a few years ago.

Police have now arrested more than 60 suspected militants and killed 14 in a series of raids since they broke up a training camp run by a previously unknown terrorist group calling itself al-Qaeda in Aceh in February.

Sunata’s capture has enabled the Indonesian people to breathe a sigh of relief as the police managed to foil his plot of new terror strikes, but may also shed light on more perils ahead as National Police chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri has hinted.
Bambang said the police had found that after the twin hotel bombings in South Jakarta in July last year, terrorists had changed tactics and targets.

The terrorists group will no longer rely on explosives to launch their attacks, not only because of more restricted access to the materials to assemble bombs but also due to the fact that bombs would kill people other than “the enemies of Islam” as well.

The finding of a training camp in the Aceh just before the ambush of Dulmatin proved the terror group had prepared themselves for the armed attacks. A police source said the terror group underwent training to operate grenade launchers they might use in the planned attack on state officials and foreign dignitaries during the Independence Day ceremony at Merdeka Palace.

To make matters worse, the supply of arms and ammunitions looks to have become more accessible now more than ever, thanks to assistance from deserted police and military members. The involvement of police and military personnel in the acts of terrorism should serve as a case for concern as the two institutions have so far been known for their allegiance with the state ideology.

The plot to assassinate the head of state and foreign dignitaries as new targets indicates the severity of terror movement in the country. We cannot play down the threats as the terror group did in 2000 when a bomb went off in front of the residence of the Philippine ambassador in Menteng, Central Jakarta.

No attempts to kill Indonesian heads of state has materialized since founding president Sukarno escaped a grenade attack in Cikini, Central Jakarta, in 1957. The attack, perpetrated by Darul Islam activists, killed 10 schoolchildren and injured 48 others.

President Yudhoyono now is on the top list of terror group targets perhaps due to his non-compromising fight against terrorism, which he deems as an extraordinary crime and a major threat to national security. As the chief security minister, Yudhoyono formed an anti-terror desk at his office just after the Bali bombings in 2002 and looks certain to approve the expansion of the counter-terrorism squad.

While the policy looks necessary to enhance the country’s capability of quelling terrorist networks, the government of President Yudhoyono is facing a daunting challenge to eradicate poverty and injustice, which many say terrorism roots from.
Nevertheless, the frequent raids on suspected terrorists over the past year only underline the fact that Indonesia remains fertile ground for acts of terrorism that call for well-knitted teamwork between the central and regional governments to remove the threats.

The Jakarta administration is no exception.

The capital of Indonesia has seen a string of fatal bomb attacks perpetrated by the terror network since 2000 and will remain a chief target of strikes due to its status as the symbol of the nation.

On the commemoration of the 483rd anniversary of Jakarta on Tuesday, Governor Fauzi Bowo pledged to do more to improve residents’ quality of life through, among others, better education and health services.

Home to around 9 million people, Jakarta has focused much on physical development, which is clearly marked by the construction of new skyscrapers and apartments that cater to the needs of the urban population, many times at the expense of the poor.
Fauzi promised to clean up the “unseen mess” left behind by his predecessors, particularly long-standing transportation hiccups and flood mitigation infrastructure. But security threats, including from terror groups, are too risky to overlook.

Standard security checks in hotels, shopping malls and public facilities such as airports took effect only after terrorists struck. There needs to be more public awareness about terror threats as evident in the loose control of neighborhood chiefs over newcomers.

Nobody knows when the war on terror will come to an end.
— Dwi Atmanta

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