Indonesia: Police Probe Video Threat

Arie Firdaus and Lenita Sulthani
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151124_ID_SIDNEY_620.jpeg Security expert Sidney Jones (right) speaks at a panel discussion “Could the Paris attacks happen in Indonesia?” in Jakarta, Nov. 23, 2015.

Authorities are investigating an online video in which “fighters for the Islamic State” threaten to fly its flag from Indonesia’s presidential palace and destroy Jakarta’s police force.

The nine-minute, 43-second video uploaded on Facebook Saturday purports to contain the voice of Indonesia’s most-wanted militant urging Indonesians to emigrate to the so-called “Islamic State” or “chase out the heathen” back home.

“Our team is still investigating. Is that really Santoso’s voice? Then where and when was the video made?” National Police spokesman Agus Rianto told BenarNews on Tuesday.

Santoso heads the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), a descendant of al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah, the most active armed militant group in Indonesia currently. The MIT declared its allegiance to IS in mid-2014.


Indonesia security officials believe Santoso is hiding in the jungles of Central Sulawesi with about 30 followers.

Asked about the authenticity of the video, Wawan Purwanto, a staff expert at the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) said, “our initial assessment is, that is Santoso’s voice,” pending verification by forensics experts.

But IS affiliates in Indonesia lack capacity to carry out large-scale attacks like the one in Paris earlier this month, Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), told a panel discussion at the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club late Monday.

Still, terror attacks may increase, she warned. Authorities need to be wary of some 50 Indonesians who have returned from Syria, including about 15 fighters.

“They are skilled and trained in combat, and could pass their abilities and their ideologies to another generation,” she said.

She estimated there are about 250 Indonesians fighting with IS in the Middle East, and 50 of them have died in Syria since March, mostly in aerial bombardments by international anti-IS forces.

About 40 Indonesian women and 100 children under the age of 15 have also gone to IS-controlled lands with their husbands or fathers, she said.

“Families that go to Syria are usually prepared to leave Indonesia forever. They have sold all their possessions to raise money for the trip and their life there,” Andi Rachmianto, a security official at Indonesia’s foreign affairs ministry, told the same panel.

Empty threats?

Ansyaad Mbai, the former BNPT chief, urged police to take the new video threat seriously, even while it is still being authenticated.

But, he noted, based on observations of past patterns, terrorists do not usually issue a threat before acting.

“Terrorists don’t play around with threats,” said Ansyaad, “but we must remain vigilant, although we are still not yet certain on the authenticity of the video.”

He recalled a threat issued by another ISIS sympathizer, Abu Jandal alias Salim Mubarak Attamimi, in April, allegedly from Syria.

Abu Jandal threatened to overrun the Nusakambangan Penitentiary to free Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah. In the end, nothing happened.

Moreover, Santoso previously threatened to destroy Jakarta police and to occupy the presidential palace. In July 2013, he declared war against Densus 88, the elite anti-terrorism unit of the Indonesian police, in a video posted to YouTube.


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