Battle against militants heats up in Poso
Paper Edition | Page: 2
The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) warned the fight against militants in the area might get uglier. This announcement came on Wednesday 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 terrorists suspects.
“Poso is the place where the most wanted terrorist suspects are hiding,” said Ansyaad.
“They train their followers to terrorize locals. This is why our men are now in the area to hunt them down,” he said.
Among the high-profile targets, according to Ansyaad, 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 organizing terrorist training camps.
According to BNPT, he left the organization 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, Upik was notorious for his bomb-making skills. Upik 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, Upik was a student of Azhari Husin, a Malaysian national known as master bomb maker implicated in the 2002 Bali bombing. Azhari was shot dead by the police in 2005 in Malang, East Java.
“Upik is very meticulous when it comes to making bombs. That’s why Azhari 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 Oct. 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 organization also founded by Ba’asyir.
“We also found some bombs, which we later defused,” said Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Dewa Parsana.