Indonesia Counterterrorism Report

May 1st, 2006, in News, by

The United States Department of State Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism country report for Indonesia, April 2006.

Following deadly terrorist bombings this year, the Indonesian government, led by the country’s first directly elected president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, demonstrated a new urgency on counterterrorism that could spawn needed institutional changes and a more comprehensive counterterrorism policy. The Indonesian government actively pursues the perpetrators of terrorist attacks.

President Yudhoyono’s July appointment of a new National Police Chief, General Sutanto, led to strengthened support for needed police reform, anti-corruption steps, and focused counter terrorism measures. Reform efforts included the December appointment of 13 new regional police chiefs. In order to better track the use of cell phones, the government announced the mandatory registration of anonymous cell phone numbers effective in 2006. Cell phone providers were reportedly drafting implementation plans at year’s end.

Links among violent Islamic radicals and extremist organizations, including the regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and its associates, remain a serious security threat to both Western and domestic targets in Indonesia. These networks launched several terrorist attacks using connections often based on radical school ties and shared training experiences in Afghanistan, the southern Philippines, and Indonesia’s Muslim-Christian violence in the former conflict areas of Maluku and central Sulawesi. Indonesia joined other countries in co-sponsoring JI for UNSCR 1267 designation in 2002.

The Sulawesi and Maluku regions were the scene of continued attempts apparently aiming to reignite inter-religious violence. In May, violent extremists brutally attacked a remote police outpost on the island of Seram, killing five policemen and their cook. Later that month, two bombs exploded in a market near Poso in central Sulawesi. This largely Christian area experienced a grisly attack in late October when six masked men beheaded three teenage Christian schoolgirls and seriously injured a fourth. In early November, two teenage schoolgirls, one Muslim and the other Christian, were critically wounded in the same region after being shot in the head by gunmen at a bus stop. In late November, masked gunmen in Poso shot and wounded a Christian university professor and his wife as they returned home from church. Although police investigations into all the Sulawesi incidents remain ongoing, by year’s end no perpetrators had been charged by police in any of these incidents [see].

The simultaneous October 1 attacks on the resort island of Bali by three suicide bombers, which killed more than 20 and injured more than 120, including six Americans, represented the worst terrorist bombing in Indonesia since the 2002 Bali attacks. The ongoing Indonesian police investigation into the attacks led to the November 9 police raid on a terrorist safe house in Malang, East Java, and the death of Malaysian bomb maker Azahari bin Husin in the ensuing shootout. Azahari’s death ended a three-year manhunt and marked a major victory for Indonesian counterterrorism efforts. Azahari and JI recruiter Noordin Mohammed Top, a Malaysian, are suspected in nearly every major terrorist attack in Indonesia in the last five years, including the 2000 Christmas Eve bombings, the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, the 2003 J.W. Marriott hotel bombing, and the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing. Indonesian police continued an intense manhunt for Noordin Top, who remains at large.

Building upon the death of Azahari and the discovery of 35 bombs ready for use, Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla has recruited prominent Muslim leaders to work in concert with the government to discourage youth from joining terrorist groups. The Vice President has spoken publicly of the need for the government to monitor institutions closely associated with radicalism. A number of Muslim leaders have publicly acknowledged that the bombings in Indonesia could not be justified on religious grounds. Indonesian authorities remained committed to investigating terrorist networks and prosecuting those suspected of terrorist acts. Special counterterrorism units within the police still played the lead role in conducting counterterrorism investigations, though the previously power-wielding Indonesian military and intelligence apparatus indicated eagerness to find new relevance by joining in the counterterrorism fight.

Since President Yudhoyono assumed office in October 2004, the police have arrested more than 50 suspected terrorists, including six key individuals and the field lieutenant of the Australian Embassy bombing. In June and July, police arrested approximately 20 members of the JI-linked Islamic NGO Kompak, including terrorist financier Abdullah Sunata. Within two months of the October suicide bombings in Bali, police had tracked down Azahari, identified the three suicide bombers, and arrested several other associates of Noordin and Azahari’s network. Despite major successes on the JI front, police and prosecutors had relatively little success in the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators of terrorist violence in central Sulawesi and Maluku.

The Indonesian Attorney General’s office initiated 17 new cases under the 2003 antiterrorism law and won convictions in all 17 trials. Among the 17 convicted were Iwan Dharmawan Mutho (alias Rois) and Achmad Hasan (alias Purnomo), both sentenced to death for their roles in the Australian Embassy bombing, and Agung Abdul Hamid, who received life in prison for his role in the December 2002 McDonald’s restaurant bombing in Makassar in southern Sulawesi. In 2005, for the first time ever, convicted terrorists had their sentences increased upon appeal under the antiterrorism law, signaling a firmer law enforcement approach by judges.

In March, Indonesian courts sentenced JI Emir Abu Bakar Ba’asyir to 30 months in prison for his involvement in a “sinister conspiracy” to carry out the 2002 Bali attacks, but failed to convict him on any terrorism charges. In August, the government granted Ba’asyir a 4 1/2- month sentence reduction for good behavior in a routine step in celebration of Indonesia’s 60th anniversary of independence. However, the government denied Ba’asyir an additional one-month sentence remission in November, traditionally given at the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In December, defense attorneys for Ba’asyir requested a judicial review of the case, citing new evidence as well as judicial error in the March conviction. The new evidence behind the judicial review request centers on a written statement by convicted 2002 Bali bomber Amrozi that denies he requested and received Ba’asyir’s approval for those attacks.

In September, Indonesia’s Attorney General established a long-awaited terrorism and transnational crime task force designed to oversee counterterrorism trials nationwide through a cadre of special terrorism prosecutors, though he has yet to assign personnel to the new task force. The United States agreed to provide $750,000 to help implement the creation of the task force.

Over the past year, the Indonesian Government continued to make progress toward developing an effective anti-money laundering regime, although more effort is needed in the areas of investigations, prosecutions, and bank and financial institution compliance. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) removed Indonesia from its Non-Complying Countries and Territories (NCCT) list on February 11. Indonesian police have frozen terrorist financial assets uncovered during investigations, but the government’s implementation of the sanctions regime established pursuant to UNSCR 1267 remains weak and is hampered by poor interagency coordination, as well as by human and technical capacity issues in both the government and financial institutions. The USAID Financial Crimes Prevention Project is a multi-year effort that provides technical advisors and support to Indonesia’s effort to develop an effective and credible anti-money laundering/counterterrorism finance (AML/CTF) regime.

Indonesian counterterrorism efforts remain hampered by weak rule of law, serious internal coordination problems, and systemic corruption that further limits already strained government resources. Lawmakers and other senior elected officials continue their slow pace toward needed legal reforms that could strengthen the country’s counterterrorism posture. The much-anticipated establishment of an official counterterrorism coordinating agency and of an independent police commission to guide police reform awaits final presidential approval. The government has not yet submitted a revision of the 2003 Counterterrorism Law to the House of Representatives. Indonesian authorities recognize a need to revise the law to include updated standards for introducing evidence in terror cases, and to add comprehensive conspiracy articles to more effectively prosecute terrorism cases.

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