The Jakarta Post
The Indonesian Military (TNI) is insisting that the joint combat exercise in Poso, Central Sulawesi, is not aimed at arresting members of a terrorist network, but added that if soldiers apprehended any of the group, the TNI would hand them over to the police.
Speaking in Semarang, Central Java, on Friday, the Indonesian Army's spokesperson Brig. Gen. Wuryanto said that the 12-day exercise, which started on March 22, was purely a training exercise.
'It's purely an exercise involving the Army, the Navy and the Air Force,' Wuryanto said, adding that those involved were from Division 2 of the quick response strike unit.
He refused to link the exercise with efforts to arrest the Santoso-led terrorist group in Poso, saying that the group comprised only 19 persons with only five rifles.
'If the TNI surround them, it will undermine the TNI's name. On the other hand, the Santoso group will feel big,' he said.
Wuryanto said that if really wanted, the TNI could arrest all the terrorist group members in a month-long operation.
The fact that the group had always successfully escaped being apprehended, according to him, was because previous operations might have been less well conducted.
Meanwhile in Poso, people residing near the joint war exercise sites are to be evacuated to prevent them becoming unnecessary victims of the bombings scheduled for Tuesday.
The commander of the Military Resort Command 132/Tadulako, Central Sulawesi, Col. Ilyas Alamsyah Harahap, said that those to be evacuated were from Tamanjeka and Sipatuo villages in Weralulu subdistrict, Poso Pesisir district. They were to be housed in barracks in the Lape and Tokorondo subdistricts on Monday.
'They will be evacuated only for a day, or 12 hours, or 16 hours at the maximum,' Harahap told reporters in Palu on Friday.
He said evacuations were only necessary for regions occupied by the war exercise, as the TNI would be using real bullets.
He also said that although some mountainous areas in Poso Pesisir would be used as bombing targets, the access road through the region would not be closed.
Harahap also insisted that the war exercise was not intended to locate the terrorists operating in the region.
'But if we encounter them we will arrest them to be handed over to the police,' he said, adding that arresting the terrorist group in Poso was the responsibility of the National Police.
He said what the TNI was doing in Poso was just a normal war exercise involving 3,200 personnel from the Indonesian Army, Navy and Air Force.
'This is conducted to improve the personnel's preparedness in dealing with vulnerable spots in Indonesia,' he said.
Separately, the Central Sulawesi Police on Thursday had withdrawn its Mobile Brigade personnel assigned to Operation Camar Maleo 2015, which was conducting a hunt for members of the Santoso-led terrorist group in Poso.
Central Sulawesi Police's spokesperson Adj. Sr. Comr. Hari Suprapto said that the operation, which has been conducted since Jan. 26, involving 1,000 Brimob personnel was not being extended for the
Even so, he said, efforts to locate the terrorist group would be continued after the TNI's joint war exercise in Poso was over.
Until Operation Camar Maleo ended, the whereabouts of the terrorist group estimated to have 28 members had not yet been found. The police have so far arrested six locals suspected to be accomplices of the terrorist group.