Indonesian Police arrest 59 militants suspected of plotting to disrupt upcoming election
Southeast Asia & Pacific Team
Global Human Rights Defense
On the 31st of October in Jakarta, the Indonesian counter-terrorist police squad known as Densus 88 set off to raid the areas of Jakarta, West Java and Central Sulawesi that led to the arrest of 59 suspected militants. 19 of the arrested are people allegedly members of the Jeemah Islamiya (JI), an Islamic group said to have ties to Al-Qaeda, who are responsible for the 2002 bombings in Bali, which killed 202 people, most of the death toll comprised of tourists visiting the country. The other 40 arrested are suspected members of the Indonesian-found militant group Jeemah Anshorut Daulah (JAD), which are affiliates of the Islamic State (ISIS). JAD is responsible for several suicide bombings in Indonesia’s second-largest city of Surabaya, which caused the death of 13 people in 2018, also targeting mostly foreigners. The Indonesian Police stated that large militant attacks on tourists have been replaced by smaller, less deadly attacks, mostly targeting the police and governmental officials.
In 2008, Indonesian courts banned JI. Since, there has been a crackdown on militant groups by counter-terrorism squads, supported by the United States and Australia. The United States listed JAD as a terrorist group in 2017. Promptly, JAD was banned by Indonesian courts in 2018.
The raids were conducted by Indonesian authorities, due to suspicions of plotting to interfere with the upcoming elections which are set to take place on the 14th of February 2024. According to a Densus 88 spokesperson, these groups are fueled by extremist Islamic views, which deem democratic elections as “immoral” and aim to establish Sharia law, an objective common to many extreme Islamic organizations. According to the Center for Radicalism and Deradicalization Studies (Pakar), the arrested JI militants were plotting to attack security forces. Furthermore, they were allegedly involved in terrorist activities which included illegal paramilitary training. Meanwhile, the arrested JAD militants were allegedly active on social media platforms spreading ISIS propaganda.
The Police seized an assault rifle, dozens of rounds of ammunition, magazines, a pistol, air-soft guns and several blades. However, the Police maintain that there is not a surge in potential terror attacks, mainly due to successful security operations. Regardless of successful operations, many human rights groups accuse the Indonesia counter-terrorist squads of “senseless extra-judicial killings.” An accusation that Densus 88 seems to shrug off, referring to the decreasing number in extra-judicial killings and unlawful arrests in the last years.
Indonesia, being the world’s most populous Muslim nation, saw an increase in Islamic strikes. While the threat has diminished, police forces maintain that the threat is still imminent.
Sources and further readings:
- Deutsche Welle, ‘Indonesia arrests 59 militants ahead of elections’ DW (31 October 2023) https://www.dw.com/en/indonesia-arrests-59-militants-ahead-of-2024-elections/a-67261330 accessed 3 November 2023.
- VOA News, ‘Indonesia Arrests Militants Suspected of Plotting to Disrupt Election’ VOA (31 October 2023) https://www.voanews.com/a/indonesia-arrests-militants-suspected-of-plotting-to-disrupt-election/7334089.html accessed 3 November 2023.
- Niniek Karmini, ‘Indonesian police arrest 59 suspected militants over an alleged plot to disrupt 2024 elections’ AP News (31 October 2023) https://apnews.com/article/indonesia-police-arrest-suspected-militants-election-bb83e4c32e4501c514e8ef1bd6e5afe2 accessed 3 November 2023.
- Arlina Arshad, ‘Indonesian police nab suspected terrorists plotting to disrupt February 2024 elections’ Straits Time (31 October 2023) https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/indonesia-says-arrests-militants-suspected-of-plotting-to-disrupt-election accessed 3 November 2023.