The Jakarta Post
The police have claimed that Operation Tinombala in Poso regency, Central Sulawesi, has recently uncovered evidence suggesting a flow of funds from the Islamic State (IS) movement to the Poso-based terrorist group the Eastern Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT), presently operating under the leadership of Santoso, alias Abu Wardah.
Operation Tinombala 2016 territorial head Sr. Comr. Leo Bonar Lubis said the evidence, in the form of fund transfer documents, was found at the scene of a shootout involving security personnel and members of the MIT in the Tineba mountain region around Taunca village, South Poso Pesisir district, on Jan. 15.
'The funds were transferred in stages to bank accounts belonging to MIT supporters or MIT-affiliated foundations, around Rp 2 million [US$144] per transaction,' Lubis said on Friday,
Lubis, who also serves as Central Sulawesi Police deputy chief, refused to give details on the origin of the funds or the total sum of money that had been transferred to Santoso's group, saying that police were still working to follow up on the findings.
Apart from the money transfer records, Lubis said the police had also found other important documents, including documents detailing MIT's planned activities and the groups' new leadership structure following the death of Daeng Koro, one of the group's leading figures.
Daeng Koro, alias Sabar Subagio, was killed in a shoot-out with members of the counterterrorism unit Densus 88, Mobile Brigade (Brimob) and the Parigi Moutong Regency Police on April 3, 2015, in the Pangi mountain region around Sakina Jaya village, North Parigi district, Parigi Moutong.
Upon learning of the discovery of the documents, Lubis said his side believed that Santoso and his group were still hiding deep in the Poso woods.
'They have not left the Poso forests,' he said, adding that the documents also revealed that Santoso's group currently had 45 members, including two women and two Chinese Uighurs.
Poso, located some 200 kilometers southeast of the provincial capital of Palu, used to be a popular resort city known for its natural beauty. Between 1998 and 2001, however, the region was rocked by a series of sectarian conflicts involving Muslims and Christians, leaving some 2,000 people dead or missing.
In 2001, the government sponsored a peace pact and was able to bring the two sides together to sign a peace agreement called the Malino Declaration.
Operation Tinombala, launched earlier this month, involves 2,000 police and military personnel tasked with hunting down Santoso, who is believed to be the leader of the IS movement's branch in Indonesia.
The new operation continues on from the Camar Maleo I to IV operations, held throughout last year, all of which failed to tear down the MIT, which has become the most feared group in the region after orchestrating the murder of a number of local residents.
Separately, Lukman S. Thahir, a researcher in terrorism from the Palu State Islamic Science Institute (IAIN), said the involvement of a number of people in acts of terror in Poso was driven more by motives of revenge rather than religious motives.
'They are victims of the communal conflict in Poso. Their motive is revenge, especially after seeing their relatives killed during the strife in 2000,' said Lukman.
Palu-based conflict resolution expert Tahmidy Lasahido, however, countered such a view. The involvement of foreign nationals in MIT's operations, he said, proved that the group had been established primarily to create terror in Poso.
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