Police: Arrested IS-linked militants sought to join MIT insurgents in Central Sulawesi

Keisyah Aprilia and Dandy Koswaraputra
2022.05.18
Palu, Indonesia, and Jakarta
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Police: Arrested IS-linked militants sought to join MIT insurgents in Central Sulawesi Inspector General Rudy Sufahriadi (center), the police chief of Central Sulawesi province, reads out the initials of the two dozen people who were arrested last weekend for alleged affiliation with the Islamic State, during a press conference at provincial police headquarters in Palu, Indonesia, May 18, 2022.
[Keisyah Aprilia/BenarNews]

Many of the 24 suspects arrested in Central Sulawesi with alleged links to a pro-Islamic State militant group wanted to join another extremist outfit whose decimated membership has dwindled to two, Indonesian police said Wednesday without disclosing details.

The suspects are members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a domestic militant network affiliated with IS, said Sr. Commissioner Arif Budiman, the head of an operation tasked with hunting down the last remaining holdouts from the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) group in the mountains and jungles of Central Sulawesi province.

“All of them are members of JAD. Various pieces of evidence were seized,” Arif told BenarNews, adding that the arrests were a “pre-emptive” move to stop them from joining the two MIT fugitives and carry out acts of terrorism.

Arif said the 24 suspects were being held in Poso, a regency in Central Sulawesi where MIT militants, who are accused of carrying out beheadings and bombings, have been most active.

MIT is one of two pro-IS groups operating in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. The other is JAD, which Indonesian authorities have blamed for most terror attacks in the archipelago nation during the past six years.

Earlier this week, national police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan said that some of the two dozen suspects had pledged allegiance to the overall IS leader, Abu Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, through the WhatsApp messaging service. Al-Qurayshi died during a counter-terrorism raid by U.S. special forces in Syria this past February.

Some of the suspects had sought to deliver food and other supplies to the MIT militants on the run or had withheld information about them, according to Ramadhan.

Police seized eight rifles, silencers, a revolver, and hundreds of bullets from the suspects, he said.

On Wednesday, police also said they had had arrested two more JAD militant suspects, bringing to 26 the number of people who have been nabbed since Saturday.

“Both are Poso residents and supporters who wanted to join MIT,” Provincial police spokesman Didik Supranoto told BenarNews, without providing details on accusations against them.

Authorities believe that MIT’s strength has been reduced to two people after security forces killed Suhardin (also known as Hasan Pranata) during a gunfight in Parigi Moutong regency last month.

On Sept. 18, 2021, police and military members of the Madago Raya task force gunned down Ali Kalora, MIT’s top commander at the time, and a follower identified as Jaka Ramadhan in the jungles of Parigi Moutong.

In January 2016, the government launched Operation Tinombala, a joint military-police task force, with a mission to capture or kill MIT militants. The name changed to Madago Raya (Kindness), as part of a strategy that focused on humanitarian and social activities, police said.

‘Excessive’

Meanwhile, a member of the Central Sulawesi legislative council, Muhaimin Yunus Hadi, called the arrests “excessive” and said they involved the destruction of several residential homes in Poso and Tojo Unauna regency.

“Ten residents complained to me that their family members who were arrested were treated badly by the Densus,” Muhaimin told BenarNews in Palu, referring to the anti-terror police unit.

He said relatives of the suspects had been left in the dark about their loved ones’ status.

“From the reports I have received, those arrested were mostly youths, some of them teenagers,” he said, adding that those arrested included ordinary residents and construction workers.

Andi Akbar, a member of the Central Sulawesi Muslim Legal Team, which provides legal representation for suspected militants, said he received information that officers had acted unlawfully, including intimidating residents.

“Densus even destroyed several residents’ houses. We are still collecting reports from residents in Poso and Tojo Unauna,” he told BenarNews.

Akbar said a mother had not received news about the whereabouts of her son.

“Maybe her child was one of those arrested,” he said.

“If that’s the case, Densus should provide information to the family so they don’t panic.”

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