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How Indonesia tackles terrorism

By Rahimullah Yusufzai

It was during our recent stay for a conference in Jakarta that one of the most wanted Indonesian militants, Dulmatin, was killed with two of his accomplices in a dramatic police raid. His death was hailed as a big success for the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in its fight against mostly homegrown terrorists.

The Indonesian president was so happy to learn about Dulmatin's killing that he broke the news during his speech at Parliament House in Australia, where he was on a visit. He used the word, Alhamdulillah (Thank God) to describe the success of the Indonesian police in eliminating Dulmatin. It followed the earlier killings of two other top militants, Noordin Mohammad Top and Azahari bin Husin.

With the Indonesian police providing the mug shots, Dulmatin's pictures were splashed all over Indonesia's large media. The balding man with a small beard and moustache was believed to be around 40 years old. Unlike in Pakistan where the authorities in most cases are unable to provide evidence, due to a host of reasons, that the targeted militants have indeed been slain, the Indonesians did a good job by providing proof to the media that Dulmatin along with Ridwan and Hasan Noer, believed to be his bodyguards, had been killed. The police also said the DNA test conducted on Dulmatin matched the DNA of his mother. The efficient cops were lucky that no bystander was killed in the high-risk, coordinated public raids, including the internet café in suburban Jakarta where Dulmatin was trapped.

The killings took place at a time when a three-day media seminar titled "Journalism at the Intersection of Politics, Religion and Culture" and focusing on conflicts in the East Asia region was taking place in Jakarta. Police raids on militants' hideouts and killings were being reported from the Jakarta suburb and Indonesia's western-most Aceh province just when the past and present conflicts in Maluku and South Sulawesi in Indonesia, Thailand's Malay-populated three southern provinces, the Mindanao islands in the Philippines and, farther away in Afghanistan and Pakistan, were being discussed.

New Zealand, in cooperation with the European Union and the government of Indonesia, had brought together 57 senior journalists and media experts and academics from 16 countries to reflect on the way the media was reporting and analysing the conflicts in the region.

At times, the Indonesian media's coverage of the events surrounding the killing of Dulmatin and his two guards was sensational. In particular, the TV channels were competing with each other to show the manhunt by the swarming policemen and were even telecasting graphic footage of dead bodies and the blood. And all this time, terrorism experts were offering comments and probably causing more confusion than clarifying things.

As happens so often in terrorism-related cases all over the world, Dulmatin had become a lot more important and dangerous in death and was being blamed for most of the terrorist attacks in Indonesia. In fact, he was being described as the mastermind of the October 2002 night-club suicide bombings in Indonesia's Bali tourist resort in which 202 people were killed, mostly foreign tourists with the overwhelming number from Australia.

Earlier, another Indonesian, Riduan Isamuddin, commonly known as Hambali, was mentioned as the mastermind of the Bali bombings. He is presently imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay after being delivered to the US by Thailand where he was captured in 2003. Hambali, referred to by the CIA as the "Osama bin Laden" of Southeast Asia, has now filed a petition for his release and the US authorities are conceding that they lack evidence for putting him on trial for his alleged role in the Bali bombings. Three other Indonesians, including Imam Samudra and brothers Amrozi and Mukhlas, were earlier captured and executed for their role in the Bali and other terrorist attacks. It seems the hunt for the masterminds of the Bali a bombing in 2002 and 2005 isn’t over yet.

Dulmatin, also known as Joko Pitoni, is of interest in the so-called Af-Pak region because he allegedly trained at an Al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. If that is true, he must have travelled through and stayed in Pakistan, particularly in the North-West Frontier Province and the adjoining tribal areas, because this is the route foreign militants take to cross over to Afghanistan. He should have friends and acquaintances in this area. The Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian militant group to which he belonged, is allegedly linked to Al Qaeda. Dulmatin's death thus isn't an isolated incident.

Dulmatin did everything that militants and undercover agents do to disguise their activities. He used fake IDs, had a number of names and undertook different trades to avoid detection and capture. From a car salesman to a livestock broker, he did businessmen that covered up his gun-running, recruitment and militant activities. He reportedly received bomb-making training in Afghanistan and then passed on his skills to militants to Moro separatists in southern Philippines and also to Indonesian militants in Aceh and Java.

As we have seen so often in Pakistan, splits in militants' ranks prompt some of them to join more radical splinter groups. It also reportedly happened in the case of Dulmatin and his comrades as they split from Jemaah Islamiyah to form the more extremist Tanzim al-Qodat. If the Indonesian anti-terror officials and experts are to be believed, he slipped back into Indonesia more than a year ago from the Philippines, where he had been given refuge by the Abu Sayyaf separatist group. This was obviously a lapse on the part of the Indonesian police and security forces, though they managed to finally track him down on March 9 outside Jakarta after nabbing militants in Aceh and interrogating them to find Dulmatin's whereabouts.

One praiseworthy aspect of the Indonesian strategy is the strong conviction of the country's police and security services that they are fighting terrorists and tackling the threat of terrorism for the sake of their country, and not to win cash rewards being offered by the US or other country. At a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia's national police chief, Gen Bambang Hendarso Damuri, played down the prospects of a reward for his cops' slaying of Dulmatin by arguing that they didn't carry out the mission in the hope of getting the $10 million bounty offered by the US government for his death or capture.

This was in contrast to the reported claim made by Thai authorities to the $10 million head-money offered by the US for the capture of Hambali in Thailand in 2003. It isn't known if the reward money was paid to the Thais because a rival claim was reportedly made at the time by CIA officials operating in Thailand.

The self-respecting Indonesian stance also contrasts with Pakistan's policy under military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf, who confessed in his book that his government pocketed monetary rewards from the US for capturing and delivering wanted militants to the Americans.

There have been reports that the practice hasn't stopped even after his removal from power and that government officials have been making claims to reward money offered by the US for killing and capturing wanted Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. This gives one the impression that some Pakistani government functionaries are hunting down the wanted men more for monetary benefit than for ridding the country of these dangerous people.

Another interesting highlight of the visit to Indonesia was to know more about the efforts to streamline religious education and teach students not only about Islam but also science and history, English and Arabic, computer skills and the martial arts. At the Pesantren Darunnajah, the Islamic boarding school established in 1974 in southern Jakarta and now having more than 2,000 male and female students, one met young boys and girls in traditional dress confident about their work and future and proud of their Islamic heritage. The privately-run management of the model pesantren, or madrassa, said they aren't linked to the large Muslim organisations Muhammadiyah or Nahdatul Ulema, but it was neutral and anxious to chalk out a moderate course for the teachers and students at the huge Pesantren Darunnajah.

Perhaps we in Pakistan too need such institutions, which focus on educating and producing good Muslims and proud citizens.

Source: The News, Pakistan