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Battle against militants heats up in Indonesia's Poso

Publication Date : 01-11-2012


Indonesia's National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) warned the fight against militants in the area might get uglier. This announcement came on yesterday as the authorities shot six suspected terrorists in a raid in Poso, Central Sulawesi.

BNPT chairman Ansyaad Mbai said nearly all notorious terrorist suspects were currently gathered in Poso as the regency was the main base and training ground of terror suspects.

"Poso is the place where the most wanted terrorist suspects are hiding," said Mbai.

"They train their followers to terrorise locals. This is why our men are now in the area to hunt them down," he said.

Among the high-profile targets, according to Mbai, are Santoso alias Abu Wardah and Taufik Bulaga alias Upik Lawangga.

Santoso is a long-time fugitive who allegedly shot dead three police officers last year in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi.

It is also alleged that he is the head of a terrorist training camp in Poso, and once, over the Internet, directly declared war on the National Police's counterterrorism unit Detachment 88.

Santoso is affiliated with the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist group. JI was co-founded by terrorist convict Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who is now serving 15 years in jail for organising terrorist training camps.

According to BNPT, he left the organisation to form his own splinter group to wage violent jihad against Christians and the police in Poso.

Terrorism expert Taufik Andrie of the Prasasti Perdamaian Foundation said that Santoso had a penchant for waging war in the field and preaching hate speech to lure followers.

Unlike Santoso, Lawangga was notorious for his bomb-making skills. Lawangga infamously assembled the bomb that blew up the lobby of the JW Marriot hotel in Jakarta in 2005.

In the past couple of weeks, the police have found dozens of highly sophisticated bombs in several areas in Poso. Some of the bombs were highly explosive and could be detonated remotely through mobile phones.

According to terrorist expert Al Chaidar, Lawangga was a student of Azhari Husin, a Malaysian national known as master bomb maker implicated in the 2002 Bali bombing. Husin was shot dead by the police in 2005 in Malang, East Java.

"Lawangga is very meticulous when it comes to making bombs. That's why Husin admired him," he said.

The BNPT believed the fugitives wanted to stir up tension between Christians and Muslims in Poso in the hope of reviving the sectarian conflict.

Poso, with a population of around 215,000, was the site of bloody clashes between Christian and Muslim communities between 1997 and 2001 that claimed around 1,000 lives and displaced 25,000.

After a government-influenced peace pact in 2001, local extremists, many of them linked to and directed by JI, mounted attacks on Christians and local officials in the hope of reviving the conflict.

"These terrorists burn churches so that Christians will do the same to mosques. After the conflict is revived, the group will take advantage by requesting extremists in other parts of the country to join their fight," he said.

On October 22, several unidentified men attempted to set fire to the Pantekosta Jemaat Tiberias Church in Mandale subdistrict, North Poso.

Detachment 88 shot six suspected terrorists in Kalora village, Poso, killing one and wounding the others. The dead suspect was identified as Jippo, a suspected member of the Jamaaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), an organisation also founded by Ba'asyir.

"We also found some bombs, which we later defused," said Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Dewa Parsana.


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