Indonesia is Islamic State’s new frontline Recent attacks indicate
ISIS-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah militant group has taken deep and
dangerous root across the archipelagic nation

By John McBeth <> Jakarta, May 17,
2018 6:14 PM (UTC+8)

[image: A government worker removes ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria)
flags painted on to walls near Veteran Street in Surakarta City, Indonesia,
in an attempt to discourage the promotion of the jihadist group in the
region. Photo: AFP Forum/Agoes Rudianto]A government worker removes ISIS
(Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) flags painted on to walls near Veteran
Street in Surakarta City, Indonesia, in an attempt to discourage the
promotion of the jihadist group in the region. Photo: AFP Forum/Agoes

For a long period during last week’s 36-hour stand-off at Indonesia’s
paramilitary Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters, scores of rioting
militants were in charge of a massive cache of automatic weapons and
thousands of rounds of ammunition.

According to sources familiar with what transpired, the only reason the
siege didn’t turn into a pitched gun-battle with police was that the
leaders of the uprising lost contact with three coordinators outside the
prison, known only as Deden, Ronggo and Ilham.

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Who they were and what was planned remains unclear, but they were almost
certainly members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), the Islamic State (ISIS)
affiliate which engineered the uprising and was responsible for a
subsequent wave of bombings in the port city of Surabaya that left 13
bombers and 12 civilians dead.

National police chief Tito Karnavian said there was little doubt the events
were connected, signaling the emergence of a cell-based organization that
may be more dangerous than the Al Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah network
that terrorized the country in the early 2000s.

In the days since, Indonesian police lost one of their own in killing four
sword-wielding men who attacked the Riau, Sumatra, provincial police
headquarters in Pekanbaru on May 16, adding to two others shot earlier in
one of a mounting series of raids across the country.

If any doubts were left after the last year’s five-month siege of the
southern Philippine city of Marawi, the recent events in Indonesia have
demonstrated that while the ISIS caliphate may have been effectively
destroyed, its reach and influence in Southeast Asia has not.

[image: Indonesia-Islamic State-Protest-Facebook]

Pro-Islamic State demonstrators in Indonesia in a file photo. Photo:

Instigated by Wawan Kurniawan, 42, a prominent JAD militant from Sumatra,
the May 9-10 prison riot led to the savage murder of five Detachment 88
counterterrorism officers and seizure of the arms cache in an unsecured
room adjoining the temporary detention center.

According to a police accounting seen by Asia Times, the cache included 59
automatic rifles, 29 pistols, 11,000 rounds of 7.62 mm and 10,000 rounds of
5.52 mm ammunition, and boxes of bullets for everything from .22 to .45
caliber pistols.

The militants were initially able to connect to social media, with the
first news of the riot appearing on ISIS’s Amaaq news agency and video from
inside the jail later being uploaded to Instagram.

It took time for police to activate a signal scrambler, which explains the
militants’ subsequent breakdown in communications with the outside.

Like Kurniawan, only 40-50 of the 156 prisoners were considered hard-core
extremists; many of the inmates on trial or awaiting trial in the three
cell blocks were possible candidates for de-radicalization, but little
effort had been made to screen them all.

[image: Police take position outside the Mobile Police Brigade (Brimob)
headquarters in Depok, Indonesia, May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside]

Police take position during a militant prison siege outside the Mobile
Police Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in Depok, Indonesia, May 10, 2018.
Photo: Reuters/Darren Whiteside

JAD founder Aman Abdurrahman, who was being held in a more secure part of
the same prison, is currently on trial for directing an attack in central
Jakarta in early 2016 from the high-security Nusakambangan island prison
off Java’s south coast.

The stand-off finally ended after Abdurrahman was reportedly persuaded to
record a surrender plea and police overwhelmed Kurniawan and nine other
hold-outs in a hail of gunfire after cutting off power, food and water.

As violence and arrests continued in West and East Java and Sumatra,
President Joko Widodo pledged to issue a presidential regulation if
Parliament fails to pass an early revision to the 2003 Anti-Terrorism Law
to give police greater powers of arrest and detention.

Police chief Karnavian has said he wants military intelligence to help in
investigating JAD “down to its roots,” as Widodo put it, but there is
likely to be strong opposition to legislating an additional role for the
armed forces in the counterterrorism effort.

Instead of Afghanistan war veterans who made up the core of Jemaah
Islamiyah, JAD is a collection of home-grown jihadi groups, among them
dependents who are clearly as dedicated to the ISIS cause as the militants

[image: Aman Abdurrahman, 38, one of chief ideoloques for a group of
suspected extremists allegedly belonging to "Al-Qaeda in Aceh" facing
multiple charges, including carrying out acts that caused "terror or fear",
possessing illegal firearms and participating in militant training, listens
to the prosecutor's indictment at a Jakarta court on August 26, 2010. The
suspects are the first to appear in court out of more than 100 people
detained after the discovery of a militant training camp in Aceh province,
Sumatra, in February. If convicted they could face between three years in

Jamaah Ansharut Daulah founder Aman Abdurrahman in a file photo. Photo:
AFP/Bay Ismoyo

Proof of that is in the three families, including mothers and children, who
carried out the suicide attacks on three Surabaya Christian churches and
the city’s police headquarters, and triggered the blasts that rocked a
low-cost apartment block in the city’s southern suburb of Sidoarjo.

Police reports that the six family members behind the church attacks were
recent returnees from Syria turned out to be false. But there are still
serious concerns whether enough is being done to monitor or rehabilitate
the 500 Indonesians known to have come back so far.

Another 600 are still unaccounted for, but scores of fighters may have died
in the final desperate days before the collapse of ISIS’ caliphate and
their dependents could still be in detention camps along the Turkish border..

JAD is expected to see the Surabaya attacks as a model for future
operations against security forces, still their main target, and to
continue its campaign of terror against Christian congregations and other
ethnic and religious minorities.

Instead of the bulkier pressure cooker device favored so far, the Surabaya
attackers assembled scores of pipe-bombs, easier to conceal but packed with
high-explosive TATP, or acetone peroxide, made from readily available
retail products.

The sustained level of violence has put police on edge with the Ramadan
fasting period beginning today and ISIS well known for perversely
convincing its followers that carrying out attacks during the Islamic holy
month brings extra merit.

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