Indonesian officers shot and killed two suspected militants in North Sumatra province, a police spokesman said, as a think-tank warned that Islamic State (IS) losses in the Middle East had not dampened local supporters’ determination to carry out attacks.
Members of Densus 88, the nation’s elite counter-terror police unit, killed the suspects during a clash in Tanjung Balai regency late Thursday, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said. They were identified as Hendry Syahli Manurung, 26, and M. Rival Alwis, 22.
“The suspects attacked officers by firing at them, leading to a gunfight,” Dedi said, adding that police seized five pipe bombs, a knife, a handgun and two bullets.
The men were identified as members of a local branch of the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a network of Indonesian militants affiliated to IS. Dedi said they allegedly plotted with accomplices, who have since been arrested, to attack the regency’s police headquarters and a Buddhist temple.
More than 350 arrested
Last month, national police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said at least 352 JAD-linked militants had been arrested since May after suicide bombers attacked three churches and a police headquarters in Surabaya, the nation’s second largest city. The Surabaya bombings killed 14 bystanders, as well as 10 members of two families who were blamed for carrying out the bombings.
East Java JAD members were encouraged to undertake suicide attacks, but the Surabaya families planned the attacks on their own without reference to any central leadership, according to a report from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC).
Announcing the ongoing arrests, Tito said, “Some of the suspects have been brought to court while 171 have had their files submitted to prosecutors.”
He said the suspects would have fair trials and if they believed they were victims of wrongful arrests, they could file pre-trial motions.
“The media can even enter the courtrooms, sit near the defendants and broadcast trials live,” he said.
Along with the arrests since the Surabaya attacks, police said at least 25 suspects were killed in a series of raids.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, has suffered a series of deadly attacks since 2000 when coordinated Christmas Eve bombings at churches in several cities killed 18 people.
IPAC warned that support for IS will continue despite the group’s losses in Iraq and Syria.
“The main lesson to draw from the Surabaya bombings is not that the use of children is the new modus operandi or that terrorists have grown more proficient,” IPAC director Sidney Jones said.
“Defeats of ISIS in the Middle East have not weakened the determination of ISIS supporters to wage war at home since they can no longer get to Syria” she said, using another acronym for IS. “JAD cells are likely to act on their own, if and when they have the opportunity or the resources to do so.”
“The government needs to pay particular attention to JAD members who are about to be or have been released, because this is the pool from which new leaders will be drawn,” Jones told BenarNews.
The report notes that unlike other militant groups, JAD prefers released prisoners because they are seen as having been tested.
Commenting on the IPAC report, Dedi Prasetyo said police and the National Counter-Terrorism Agency (BNPT) monitor former terrorism convicts.
BNPT’s deputy for international cooperation said the government had prioritized de-radicalization efforts.
“I think soft approaches are the best way to eradicate terrorism,” said Hamidin, who uses one name.
“We have established an education center in North Sumatra,” he said, referring to the de-radicalization center in Medan.