After Attack, Indonesian Leader Presses Lawmakers to Speed Up Anti-Terror Bill

Rina Chadijah
170526_ID_bomb_folo_1000.jpg Indonesian President Joko Widodo (white shirt) pays a hospital visit to a policeman who was injured in a suicide bombing outside a bus station in the Jakarta area, May 25, 2017.
Indonesian Presidential Palace/AFP

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is calling for increased police powers to help prevent terrorism in the wake of a twin suicide bombing in Jakarta this week that authorities say was carried out by militants linked to Islamic State (IS).

IS has claimed responsibility for Wednesday night’s attack outside the Kampung Melayu bus station in East Jakarta, which left three policemen and two suspected bombers dead in the worst terror act to hit the Indonesian capital in 16 months.

After visiting a police hospital in Jakarta where some of the attack’s survivors were recovering from injuries, the president called on the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR) to speed up efforts to pass a long-delayed bill that proposes to toughen Indonesia’s laws against terrorism.

“We want the government and DPR to immediately complete the anti-terrorism bill so it will make it easier for the law enforcement officials to have a strong foundation to act,” Jokowi told reporters as he left the hospital on Thursday.

“The priority is to do prevention,” he said.

On Friday, Indonesian police counter-terrorist squad Densus 88 made the first three arrests in connection with the East Jakarta attack, taking the suspects into custody in raids in Bandung, West Java, reports said.

According to the nation’s police chief, the Bandung cell of local militant group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah carried out the attack, and JAD is linked to Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian IS figure based abroad who is wanted by authorities back home.

“It's an old and small network. We will continuously hunt its members; people do not need to panic. We all remain strong and we do not have to worry about,” Karnavian said Friday while visiting the scene of the attack.

The United States has labeled JAD a foreign terrorist organization and Indonesian police have accused Bahrun of orchestrating a terrorist attack in central Jakarta that left eight people, including four suspects, dead in January 2016.

According to police, Bahrun joined IS in Syria in 2014 but may have moved to the southern Philippines, where IS-linked militant groups are very active.

‘Phenomenon of decentralization’

During the past year, Indonesian police said they had thwarted a number of alleged terror plots hatched by JAD. Last Christmas, for instance, the authorities said they stopped the group from carrying out attacks targeting revelers during the Christian holiday season. Police arrested four suspected members of a JAD cell and shot dead two others during a counter-terrorist raid in West Java province.

The attack in East Jakarta and elsewhere in the world was part of a trend resulting from Islamic State being cornered by government and anti-IS military offensives in Syria and Iraq, where the group’s traditional strongholds are located, Karnavian suggested.

“Currently there is a phenomenon of decentralization. As their centers were attacked, they split, and then they ordered the support cells in various countries to carry out attacks to divert attention,” he told reporters.

In recent years, Indonesian police have taken a heavy toll in terrorist attacks or in efforts to combat terrorism, the police chief added.

“Up to today, more than 140 police have become victims of terrorist groups,” he said, noting that 40 officers were killed, including the three who died in the line of duty on Wednesday, and the rest were injured.

Late on Thursday, IS’s official news agency Amaq claimed via social media that “one of the fighters of the Islamic State” had carried out the East Jakarta attack on a “police gathering,” according to SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based website that monitors online communications among Muslim extremist groups worldwide.

Anti-terror bill

Legislative efforts to change Indonesia’s anti-terror laws have stalled because of resistance put up by some political parties and concerns raised by activists that the changes could infringe on human rights.

Under the existing laws, Indonesians who go overseas to join extremists groups like Islamic State cannot be prosecuted in Indonesia unless they commit a terrorist act on home soil.

The proposed revisions would broaden the definition of terrorism and give police the power to detain suspects without trial for longer. The changes would also permit the authorities to arrest people for hate speech and disseminating radical content, Reuters reported.

Asrul Sani, a lawmaker who sits on a DPR committee working on the anti-terrorism bill, said the committee was still identifying and making a list of problematic parts of the proposed changes.

“Members have agreed to intensify the discussion of the problems. Next week, we will meet again to sharpen the discussion,” he told BenarNews on Friday.

The committee members have not yet agreed on a definition for terrorism, he said.

“It is not only us, but the government has also not yet agreed. But essentially, we will seek together to accelerate the discussion of this bill,” Asrul said.

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