STRATEGIC ASSESSMENT, National Police Chief Spokesperson Ahmad Ramadhan said the Densus 88 anti-terrorism squad had arrested 27 suspected terrorists from the Anshor Daulah (AD) network. The arrests were carried out in three provinces including Jakarta, West Java, and Central Sulawesi.
In the lead-up to the presidential election, the Densus 88 anti-terrorism squad has been actively cracking down on terrorism cells, resulting in the arrest of at least 45 suspected militants in October alone.
These suspects are reportedly either members of the homegrown militant group Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) or sympathizers of the global terror network Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The largest operation took place on Friday, with the arrest of 27 suspects in separate operations conducted in Jakarta, West Java, and Central Sulawesi. “On Oct. 27, 27 members of Ansharut Daulah were apprehended,” National Police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan.
Densus 88 counter-terrorism task force spokesperson Aswin Siregar said the Densus has arrested 59 suspected militants including some loyalists of the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) suspected of planning to disrupt an upcoming election.
Nineteen of those arrested were from the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) network, which has ties to al Qaeda, while 40 suspects were from JAD, which has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS). He said the JAD militants were suspected of plotting attacks to disrupt Feb. 14 presidential and legislative elections.
An elite counterterrorism police squad in Indonesia announced the arrest of 59 suspected militants as part of a crackdown ahead of the February 2024 general election. The suspects, detained from throughout the country, allegedly belonged to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Islamic State-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), according to a senior official from Densus 88, the police anti-terrorism unit.
“For them, the election is part of democracy, which they consider as sinful and unlawful,” Aswin Siregar told reporters at the national police headquarters in Jakarta. “This reminds us again that the structural network of Jemaah Islamiyah still exists and continues to be active.”
Densus 88 anti-terrorism squad spokesperson Aswin Siregar disclosed that the squad had arrested a total of 104 suspected terrorists from January to October this year. According to Aswin, there was a decrease in terrorism-related criminal acts in 2023 compared to the previous two years, when the squad arrested 370 terrorists in 2021 and 248 terrorists in 2022.
Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, Indonesian Islamists are unlikely to have any significant impact on the 2024 general elections or engage in violent protests if their candidates of choice are defeated. The Jokowi government has successfully marginalised the leading Islamist groups, and no candidate for president is likely to rely on their support for partisan advantage, even with the Gaza war as a backdrop.
These are the major findings of the “Indonesian Islamists in the Lead-Up to the 2024 Elections”, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC). The report examines the pre-election strategies of four groups: the Islamic Brotherhood Front (Front Persaudaraan Islam, FPI), formerly the Islamic Defenders Front; two Salafi-modernist organisations, Wahdah Islamiyah and Arrahman Qur’anic Learning (AQL); and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI).
There are several reasons why the Islamists are weaker than they were in 2019. The government anti-radicalisation campaign has worked, leaving some of the groups banned and their leaders arrested, and others lying low. They are no longer united. And the country is no longer as religiously polarised as it was in 2019.
Alif Satria, Researcher in the Department of Politics and Social Change at CSIS Indonesia, terrorist organisations in Indonesia have been weakened significantly in the last five years. Not only have key pro-Islamic State (IS) organisations like the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) become increasingly decentralised to the point of being unable to collectively devise a common strategy and mobilise resources, the country’s most well-known terrorist organisation, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), is currently leaderless following the capture of several senior members since mid-2019.
Consequently, the frequency and lethality of terrorist attacks in Indonesia has substantially reduced. Whereas organisations in the 2000s annually conducted two to three large-scale attacks, like the 2000 Christmas Eve Bombings which simultaneously targeted churches in nine cities, terrorist attacks in Indonesia today are largely opportunistic and small-scale.
The most recent 2022 Astana Anyar Bombing, for example, resulted in 10 casualties.
Yet, Indonesian terrorist organisations remain resilient, particularly JI. The organisation was deemed defeated in 2008 following a 2007 crackdown of JI’s base in Central Sulawesi and the subsequent arrest of its then-leader, Zarkasih. In 2009, however, JI appointed a new leader, Para Wijayanto, who restructured the organisation to prioritise dawah (preaching) and internal cohesion.
By 2014, JI was sending selected members to Syria for military training with Jabhat al Nusra, operating palm oil plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan, and regularly conducting dawah initiatives to university students. When Para Wijayanto was arrested in mid-2019, police investigations uncovered that JI had around 6,000 members across the country, some of whom were active within government institutions.
According to Aisyah Llewellyn, independent journalist, It perhaps came as something of a surprise last week in Indonesia, when the authorities arrested 59 suspected militants allegedly affiliated with hardline groups, who police said were planning to stage attacks around Indonesia’s presidential election, which will take place on February 14 of next year.
According to Indonesia’s Counterterrorism Special Detachment 88 unit (Densus 88), the suspects had been stockpiling weapons, bomb making equipment and propaganda materials and had “planned to carry out attacks on security forces who focus on securing the series of election activities.” Should we be worried about the recent arrests in Indonesia, and do they perhaps point to hardline groups lying low and waiting for the right time to strike once again?