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Fighting rich terrorists

Publication Date : 15-02-2013


The Indonesian National Police’s crackdown on al-Qaeda-linked Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) as the party responsible for a series of deadly bomb attacks targeting foreign interests within the last decade has in fact not marked an end to acts of terrorism in the country. Terrorist cells have continued to seek and receive funding to carry out recruitment, training and eventually carnage, albeit on a lower scale.

The country’s law enforcers had long been aware of the key issue of terrorism funding, but it took them one year to finally win the House of Representatives’ approval of a bill on terrorism financing. The bill, unanimously passed on Tuesday, authorises government institutions, including the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (PPATK), to track down and cut the sources of funding for terrorist activities, both domestically and overseas.

It will complement the draconian antitrerorism law passed in 2006 and the anti-money laundering legislation endorsed in 2003. When the bill comes into effect, PPATK will be responsible for freezing bank accounts and confiscating assets related to terrorism and terrorist organisations in cooperation with law enforcement agencies and financial service providers.

The bill will also allow Indonesian authorities to ask foreign governments to block bank accounts of individuals or corporations included on the list of world terrorist groups and vice versa as part of the international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

According to the police, the terrorism network in the country has shifted to members and sympathisers as sources of funding. The terrorists turn out to justify funding raised through criminal acts as apparent in an August 2010 bank robbery in Medan, North Sumatra, which left a police officer dead, and the money changer robbery in Bali in March of last year. Bali bomber Imam Samudra, who was eventually executed, admitted to raising funds for the first attack on the tourist island in October 2002 by, among others, robbing a jewellery shop.

It has been uncovered that terrorists collect money through Internet hacking as evident in the arrest of IT experts Rizki and Cahya, who worked under Santoso, a terror suspect who now tops the police most-wanted list for his activities in Poso, Central Sulawesi. The police said Rizki and Cahya hacked a foreign exchange trading website and collected nearly US$700,000 used to launch a bomb attack on a Surakarta Protestant church last year and paramilitary training in Central Sulawesi.

A former terrorist who has served his jail sentence once said terrorist cells also collected funds through charity foundations or organisations, whose members operated door-to-door, in bus terminals and train stations, without knowing the money would go to terrorists.

With foreign funding no longer to be expected, terrorists will seek every avenue to secure their access to funding. Learning from the global terror network al-Qaeda, it will come as no surprise if in the future the Indonesian police find a link between terrorism and drug trafficking.

The US security authorities discovered evidence of al-Qaeda’s alleged involvement in large-scale drug sales to finance its and its associates’ activities worldwide. They said ever since the Taliban took over Afghanistan, heroin production soared each year. The Taliban produced 400 out of 500 metric tons of heroin in 1999 alone. The media and several intelligence agencies also reported that bin Laden once exchanged $500 million worth of heroin for four suitcases with nuclear devices from the Chechens.

The passage of a bill that will cut the lines of terrorist financing marks a progress in the country’s fight against terrorism. Sooner or later terrorists will arm themselves with high-tech unless the law enforcers succeed in blocking their access to funding.

But all the efforts and initiatives to combat terrorists should not distract us from the root of terrorism: radicalism.


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