Foreign Policy Blogs

Terror suspect arrested in Indonesia

The police in Indonesia have arrested one of the country’s most wanted Islamic militants on Friday, December 10. The arrested has been accused by the police of having been involved in the plotting of high-profile assassinations and for carrying out attacks on foreigners at luxury hotels in the capital. Media reports inform that Abu Tholut was arrested without a fight during a pre-dawn raid on a home in Central Java province. The police spokesman added that a handgun and several rounds of ammunition also were seized from the accused.

Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim nation of 240 million, has battled extremists since 2002, when members of the al-Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah bombed two nightclubs on the resort island of Bali, killing 202 people, most of them foreign tourists. Members of a violent offshoot of the group have continued to carry out near-annual strikes on embassies, beach-side restaurants and glitzy hotels since then, killing more than 60.

Tholut, also known as Mustofa, became one of the country’s most wanted fugitives after master bomb-makers Noordin M. Top and Dulmatin were gunned down earlier this year in a series of police raids. In 2001, Tholut was convicted for his involvement in a bomb that rocked a shopping plaza in central Jakarta which left six wounded. However, he was released five years later citing for good behaviour. Like dozens of Indonesia’s so-called “rehabilitated” terrorists, it he seems to have quickly returned to his old ways. Post his release, he is alleged to have helped in setting up a militant training camp for the home-grown terror cell, Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT). JAT was uncovered by police in the westernmost province of Aceh in February. The organisation, led by Indonesia’s best-known radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, has been an enigma since its founding in 2008. An ostensibly above-ground organisation, it has embraced individuals with known ties to fugitive extremists. It has welcomed many members of the militant Jema’ah Islamiyah (JI) but clashed with the JI leadership over strategy and tactics. The group’s main objective was to help recruit members and raise money to meet the broad objectives.

Police say that Abu Tholut was deeply involved in terrorist training in Aceh and armed robberies in North Sumatra province. The police has also informed that the cell was also plotting assassinations, including on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to punish the state for lending support to the U.S.-led war on terrorism, and Mumbai-styled gun attacks on foreigners.

Indonesia has been widely praised for its anti-terror fight, arresting, bringing to trial and jailing hundreds of militants since 2002. The frequency of attacks has sharply declined, as have the number of deaths.

But experts warn that extremists continue to be a threat.