Terrorism in Sulawesi & Ambon

Jan 27th, 2006, in News, by

Origins of terrorism in Sulawesi and Ambon.

It is widely believed that some or a large part of the violence inflicted by militant Muslim groups in Indonesia is done so with the connivance or active support of elements of the military. In a response to a question on this topic terror expert Sidney Jones says:

Certain local NGOs (non-government organizations) sometimes assert that corrupt politicians may be involved, such as their assertion over the Tentena bombing. But there is no evidence linking acts of violence to corruption, and nor have I seen any hard evidence that links individual members of the military to acts of violence in Poso and Tentena. There are assumptions but there is no evidence.

These assumptions are based on past experiences. For instance, in Ambon in mid-2001 a small group of soldiers from TNI (Indonesian Military) provided basic military training to Laskar Jihad, a Java-based fundamentalist militia, and supplied them with modern weapons. And when Poso erupted in 1998 the initial outbreak of violence involved political interests.

So for some locals, earlier corruption-related violence feeds into these theories of military or political responsibility for acts of terrorism. But these assertions are often unable to be followed logically, and have not yet been backed by any hard evidence.

On the question of why Islamic militants target central Sulawesi, mainly the towns of Poso and Palu, she replies:

Poso, like Ambon, was seen as an area where the conflict produced new recruits for their movement. They think these regions could be developed into a qoidah aminah (secure area) where residents can live by Islamic principles and Islamic law.

But I think also maybe because there are still many unresolved issues about the conflict regarding corruption of funds, distribution of land, and also perhaps, the perpetrators believe they can get away with it.

On whether terrorist training camps are still in operation in Sulawesi:

I believe they exist. There may not be formal camps, say with obstacle courses or particular structures, but I’m sure there’s still backroom training in somebody’s bengkel (garage) or backyard because all you need is space for five people to plan how to make bombs.

On possible solutions to the terrorist problem:

….there is no silver bullet. We need better coordination between intelligence agencies to prevent attacks and serious punishments for serious crimes.

We need to treat acts of violence linked to jihadist groups as serious crimes, to be treated as such: by putting top level officers and prosecutors into it and ensuring that you have a good, impartial judicial system. Understanding the local differences and motivations in terrorism is also critical.

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