Poso residents reject terrorist label
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National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar has officially announced that the suspect detained for throwing a bomb that failed to explode at South Sulawesi Governor Syahrul Yasin Limpo was linked to a terrorist network in Poso, Central Sulawesi.
Boy said the suspect, Awaluddin Nasir, 25 — who allegedly threw a pipe bomb at Syahrul while he was on stage attending a Golkar Party anniversary celebration, on Sunday in Makassar — was a member of Islamic radical groups in Poso.
“The suspects fled to Makassar because police beefed up security and monitoring in Poso following the series of violent incidents in the city,” Boy said on Monday as quoted by Antara news agency.
For many Poso residents, including those who were involved in bloody sectarian conflicts a decade ago, the police’s announcement came as a heavy blow.
“Why do all terrorism-related incidents in this country have to be linked with Poso?” said Rev. Rinaldy Damanik, a prominent Christian leader from Poso.
Poso residents, who say they are tired of violence, expressed frustration with their hometown being labeled a hotbed for terrorists. Analysts say that after parole, former terrorism convicts have easily linked up with both new and old networks, including those in Poso.
The regency of Poso, with a population of around 215,000, was rocked by bloody communal clashes from 1998–2001 that claimed around 1,000 lives and displaced 25,000.
A recent series of violent incidents over the past three months has raised concerns among residents about the potential return of former sectarian sentiments.
Peace advocates in Poso, mostly former combatants, blamed the government and security authorities for failing to tackle radicalism in Poso.
Former Christian and Muslim fighters have done much more than criticize the government’s shortcomings. They have become leaders of peace campaigns and have advocated on behalf of those who have borne the brunt police brutality.