Indonesia's War on Terrorism Bears Fruit 

      Written by Our Correspondent     
      Thursday, 18 March 2010  

Aceh Terror Suspect Surrenders 

With US President Barack Obama due in Jakarta next week, Indonesia's 
counterterrorism forces seem to be doing a creditable job rolling up terrorists 
in advance of his visit. A demoralized suspect named Abu Rimba turned himself 
in to police Wednesday night, carrying with him an AK 47, five magazines and 
238 bullets, police said.

Indonesian authorities said the Obama visit is likely to go ahead as planned 
and described it as a confidence vote in the Indonesian counterterrorism fight. 
Obama, his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha are expected to visit 
Indonesia, where Obama spent several childhood years going to school, through 
March 22. 
Rimba said he had left an alleged terrorist camp in Aceh before police raids 
began there on February 22 and had hidden in remote villages before deciding to 
turn himself in. Police are still searching for six other suspects.

Breaking up the Aceh network follows the slaying last week in the town of 
Tangerang of Ammar Usman, who gained fame under the jihadi nom de guerre 
Dulmatin, who was accused of having played a key role in 2002 bombings in Bali 
that left 202 people dead, mostly western tourists. The 39-year-old Dulmatin 
and two other people were shot dead March 9 in a gunfight with counterterrorism 
forces in Tangerang, a city 27 km south of Jakarta. Officials had put a US$10 
million reward on his head.

In their intensified campaign to go after terrorists, since Feb. 22 the Densus 
88 antiterrorism police unit has so far arrested 31militants in Aceh, West Java 
and Jakarta including firearms suppliers and financiers since the first arrests 
were made. They have killed six more, raising questions for human rights 
observers on whether the police are too quick on the trigger. 

Last year, the police staged several spectacular gun battles, killing a top 
Malaysian operative named Noordin Mohammad Top, who was also implicated in 
bombings in Bali that took the lives of scores of innocent people, as well as 
the bombings of two American luxury hotels in Jakarta last year. Three others 
were killed in the gun battle and a woman was wounded. At one point, Noordin's 
confederates were involved in an audacious plan last year to blow up the 
Presidential palace of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono himself.

In 2005, police also shot and killed Azahari bin Husin, a confederate in the 
Bali bombings. Dulmatin, however, was considered to be a particular prize. He 
was the Jemaah Islamiyah leader for the entire Southeast Asian region, police 
said, and had been given intensive military training in Mindanao starting in 
2003. He was also a sophisticated bomb-maker, police said.

"For us, counterterrorism using violence is not sufficient to stop terrorism. 
We think it is contrary to the principles of human rights and citizens' rights 
to legal aid," said Bhatara Ibnu Reza, a researcher for Imparsial, the 
Indonesian human rights monitor. Despite a decrease in the number of terrorist 
attacks, he added, violence runs the risk of encouraging the expansion of 
terrorist networks and movements at the grass-roots level. Some 400 suspects 
have been captured or killed since the first Bali bombing in 2002. 

However, Jim Della-Giacoma, Southeast Asia Project Director for the 
Brussels-based International Crisis Group, told Asia Sentinel in an email that 
Indonesian counterterrorist forces have actually been restrained in their 
attempts to search out jihadis.

"They know that each time one of these suspects is shot dead they're losing a 
lot of information, but they don't want to risk the lives of their own men to 
get it," Della-Giacoma said. "They are probably aware also that they are 
creating martyrs. High rates of public approval for the police-led fight 
against terrorism, even after the killings and an uncritical local media go 
some way to explaining why there is less pressure to develop better techniques 
to capture rather than kill suspects - to smoke them out rather than shoot them 
Indonesia has put hundreds on trial for terrorism offences, with authorities 
ready and able to use the courts in a way others in the region have not, 
Della-Giacoma said. "You've got to give both the police and the prosecutors 
some credit for this."

The successes don't mean the US president's security forces have any reason to 
relax. The outpouring of defiance at the burial of Dulmatin in his home town in 
Central Java brought thousands to the streets, shouting "Allahu Akhbar" and 
calling the dead man a mujahideen and not a terrorist. Others called him a holy 

Heru Kuncoro, Dulmatin's brother-in-law and one of Indonesia's most wanted 
figures, is still on the loose. Police continue to Dulmatin's confederates 
throughout Central Java. Others who remain at large are Upik Lawangga, Umar 
Patek and Zulkarnaen. Umar and Zulkarnean are wanted by the US government for 
their roles in the 2002 Bali bombings. Zulkarnean is believed by some analysts 
to now head Jemaat Islamiyah, which is believed to have carried out more than 
50 bombings in Indonesia since April 1999, the International Crisis Group, 
including the 2002 Bali bombings and attacks on the resort island in 2005 that 
killed 20 more.

Andi Widjajanto, a military analyst from the University of Indonesia, told 
local media that Jemaah Islamiyah bombings, appears to be growing stronger, 
recruiting new members outside of the island of Java. He estimated that that 
there are 300 active JI members spread nationwide with [an additional] 240 
released terrorist convicts. This does not include many people who are being 
trained secretly."

The International Crisis Group, in a report last August, said that the network 
is proving to be larger and more sophisticated than previously thought, with 
funding coming from the Middle East. 

"While the extent of foreign involvement this time around remains unclear, 
recruitment in Indonesia has proved disturbingly easy," the report said. "The 
salafi jihadi ideology that legitimizes attacks on the US and its allies, and 
Muslims who associate with them, remains confined to a tiny fringe, but that 
fringe includes disaffected factions of many different radical groups and 
impressionable youths with no history of violence." 

The jihadi movement, the crisis group said in another report, continues to 
evolve in new directions, with an inner circle that may include no more than 
seven or eight men, who escaped capture in earlier dragnets. It is possible, 
the crisis group said at the time, that the jihadi organization had no clear 
structure beyond Noordin and his inner circle and consists only of ad hoc cells 
put together for specific operations.  Despite concerns over released terrorism 
suspects, the crisis group said, they are mostly not a threat. So many of them 
are turned and go back to their old organizations as police informers that the 
jihadis tend not to trust them.

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