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Sabtu, 29 Juni 2013

East Indonesian Islamist Militants Expand Focus and Area of Operations

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The rise of Santoso (a.k.a Abu Warda, a.k.a. Abu Yahya) as Indonesia's most wanted militant is forcing the country's elite counterterrorist unit, Densus 88, to focus on his Sulawesi-based network - Mujahidin Indonesian Timur (MIT) (Jakarta Globe, November 5, 2012). Since 2012, MIT has targeted Indonesian government officials and security forces, but there are concerns that MIT could follow the path of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), especially because Santoso was previously a commander in Jamaat Ansaru Tawheed (JAT), the successor group to JI.

The most recent incident highlighting MIT's expanding reach occurred on May 9, when Densus 88 carried out a series of raids in Bandung, Kebumen and Batang on Java, the country's most populous island (for Densus 88, see Terrorism Monitor, August 12, 2011). According to police, the seven militants who were killed and the 13 who were arrested had explosives prepared for attacks and had robbed banks to raise money for Santoso (Jakarta Post, May 10, 2013).

The Javan connection to Santoso shows that the legacy of JI and JAT founder Abu Bakr Ba'asyir, even as the 73-year old Ba'asyir serves a 15-year prison sentence for sponsoring a terrorist training camp in Aceh that Densus 88 raided in 2010. Santoso commands approximately 50 MIT fighters in the jungle area of Poso and Palu in Central Sulawesi (Straits Times [Singapore], February 13). The extent of the MIT's network, however, is much larger and was exposed when two of Santoso's men who murdered two police officers in May 2011 were arrested and revealed information about MIT to interrogators. Despite those two militants' revelations, MIT's attacks in Sulawesi continued in 2012, including:

· The murder of two police officers in Poso in August
· A bomb attack in North Poso, also in August
· A September bomb attack at a police station in Poso
· The November shooting of the North Poso Police station chief
· The shooting of four police Mobile Brigade members in North Poso in December, which Santoso claimed under the name of "Batalyon Abu Warda." The attack was in revenge for the police closing a girls' pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Poso two months earlier (Jakarta Post, January 13).

As demonstrated by MIT's attacks in Poso, the group tends to avoid operations that leave civilians dead, a contrast with JI's former style. MIT is locally funded, in part through bank robberies and other criminal activities, including hacking foreign exchange trading websites (Jakarta Globe, December 24, 2012). JI, in contrast, was funded by al-Qaeda and beholden to al-Qaeda's modus operandi of targeting foreign citizens and foreign interests, including attacks that killed more than 200 people, mostly foreigners, in the tourist district of Bali in 2002 and 2005 and in Jakarta in 2009.


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