Poso to beef up security; Riau to deploy six bomb squads
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The Central Sulawesi Police have decided to continue the Kendali Maleo security operation in Poso as the region is still considered a conflict-prone area.
Recent attacks by groups of armed civilians have highlighted the fact that the area is also considered to be the most active center of terrorism in the country after Jakarta and Central Java’s Surakarta.
“We have asked for two additional company-sized units or around 200 personnel from the National Police to secure the regency,” said Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Dewa Parsana on Tuesday.
He said around 1,200 personnel were deployed in Poso since the police ramped up security measures in October.
During the operation, Dewa continued, the police have nabbed 16 people allegedly involved in the murder of two police officers in Tamanjeka hamlet in October and the attack on Dec. 20, which killed four officers and injured two. All of the suspects have been handed over to the National Police for further investigation.
The police also seized a rifle, three pistols, 600 bullets, 18 handmade bombs weighing over 100 kilograms, bomb-making materials, documents, communication devices and bulletproof vests.
Poso has recently seen outbreaks of civil disorder. Besides the recent attacks on the police, the police’s bomb squad dealt with a 10-kilogram homemade bomb found in front of Poso’s central market on Christmas Day.
The Christian-majority regency of Poso, with a population of around 215,000, was rocked by bloody communal clashes from 1998 to 2001 that claimed more than 1,000 lives and displaced 25,000.
After the signing the Malino Declaration in 2001, which called an end to hostilities, the security situation gradually returned to normal.
Many former fighters, however, have joined hard-line groups that continued to support terrorism in the area. The groups are thought to have formed affiliations with Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), building their headquarters in Poso and using Gunung Biru in Tamanjeka hamlet as a training camp.
Meanwhile, following a number of security threats in Poso and other cities in Indonesia, the Riau Islands Police will deploy six bomb squad teams, each comprising three to five officers, across the province as an effort to anticipate security threats.
Riau Islands Police chief Brig. Gen. Jotje Mende said the teams would be assigned to Batam, Bintan, Karimun and Tanjung Pinang. Batam will get three teams due to its high crime rate. “This step is taken as a precaution. As for other islands like Lingga and Natuna, we will let the local police personnel handle security issues,” said Jotje.
“Riau is not considered a terrorism-prone area, but the province is on the border [of Indonesia and its neighboring countries] and the islands in the province sometimes become transit points [for some terrorists or criminals],” Jotje added.
He ordered his officers to check any suspicious people wearing small travel bags around their waists, saying that in most suicide bombings, the perpetrator carried the bomb in this kind of bag.
Some high-profile terrorists who reportedly entered the country through Batam include Imam Samudra, Umar Al Farouq and Singaporean national Mas Selamat bin Kastari.
Imam was involved in the 2002 Bali bombing, while Umar Al Farouq and Mas Selamat bin Kastari were arrested for their alleged roles in the al-Qaeda terrorism network. Imam is also said to be involved in the Christmas church bombings in 2000, which targeted four churches in Batam and wounded dozens of people.
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