IO, Jakarta – During the past week, Indonesia has been under a wave of terror. It all started with the riots at the Mako Brimob Detention Center on 9 may, which caused the deaths of 5 police officers and 1 terrorist. On 12 May, 4 terrorists in Cianjur died from being shot by the police. It did not stop there: terrorists acted again 13 May. 3 major churches in Surabaya were attacked by suicide bombers: the Pentecostal Church at Jalan Arjuno, GKI at Jalan Diponegoro, and the Catholic Church of Immaculate Saint Mary (Gereja Katolik Santa Maria Tak Bercela) at Jalan Ngagel Madya Utara. 18 people died in these attacks. The horrifying thing is that an entire family, i.e. both parents and their 4 underage children, perpetrated the Surabaya suicide bombings.
Terrorist actions continue at Polrestabes Surabaya on 14 May, where the 4 dead in the attacks were the suicide bombers themselves. In the latest attack, Polda Riau was attacked by terrorists, causing the death of one police officer.
Simultaneous and Organized
Ridlwan Habib, Terrorism Observer from University of Indonesia, states that this wave of terrorist attacks are part of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah’s operations in East Java. “They perpetrated simultaneous attacks to other cities as well. It’s a stroke of luck that when they were planning to attack Jakarta, the cells in Cianjur were stopped and 4 of them were shot down, so that they failed entry to Jakarta. The police have also successfully arrested 4 people in Bekasi and 2 people in Sukabumi. This is part of their grand operation,” he said.
On the other hand, the Executive Director of Maarif Institute, Muhammad Abdullah Darraz, said that the Surabaya bombing terror is related to Shi’a terrorists in Syria and it was triggered by the Mako Brimob riots. This is worsened by the fact that many disaffected people have just returned from Syria, ready for revenge as 155 (terrorist-related) prisoners in Mako Brimob were being transferred to the maximum-security prison at Nusa Kambangan island. “So I believe this is related to ISIS,” he said firmly.
Darraz concludes that the suicide bomber actions in both the churches and the Polrestabes have been prepared carefully. “They can’t possibly work by themselves. We have 3 families turn bombers here: one at the Rusunawa, one at Polrestabes, and one at the churches,” he said. “I think the children who were involved were just victims of their parents’ indoctrination. And that is just the tip of the iceberg: I heard that the children who bombed the church categorically refused to participate in Civics course or in the flag ceremony at school. This is a clear signal that they were ordered so by their parents, whether they like it or not. But the 8-year-old girl bomb terrorist at Polrestabes who survived, I don’t think that she understood what she has done because she is underage. However, children who have already reached the age of reason are being radicalized throughout society, and this is our homework,” Darraz said.
Khairul Fahmi, Intelligence Observer from the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies (ISESS), states that many groups affiliated with the Islamic State more frequently attack police assets and personnel. “What is interesting about the Surabaya attacks is that they occur as if we were back in the past, prior to the existence of the Islamic State. What I mean is, in the Bali I bombings, the related group, in that case the Jamaah Islamiyah, tended to target places of worship and entertainment. The targets have ideal characteristics for expressing vengeance, and that has not happened for quite a long time. Jakarta must remain vigilant, but it does not mean that we neglect other regions,” he said.
Intelligence Caught Off Guard?
Khairul believes that even though terror attacks occurred in a series in several cities, it does not mean that the police were completely unprepared. “I think this series of terror bombing attacks does not mean that the police were caught completely off guard, because there are always so many micro terrorist cells acting. When we are processing some, others fell through the gaps and performed actions like in Surabaya. We can never accurately determine when and where such attacks will be made. There are so many micro terrorist cells at any time… One of the bombers was an entire family. This is new and we may say it is difficult to identify, because there is an entire family involved, even their children. This is the first time such a group acted, but we don’t know yet if there are other micro cells that involve a family, i.e. father, mother, and children. We have had siblings, or father-and-son teams, but not this,” he said.
East Java is actually not a main terror target area, but it is an excellent region for logistical preparation as well as coordination and planning of actions. “This only happened yesterday. We see that lately, the police have been making action against terrorism in the Western part of Indonesia, especially in West Java, DKI, and Banten. On the other hand, there is a trigger event like the Mako Brimob riot, and other regions responded with their own actions,” he said.
In the entire East Java area, Surabaya is the most logical site for an action, especially since the Dita (the father in the bombing) was one of central figures in the terror network in Surabaya. “Dita has been recently identified as a leader of the terror network in Surabaya. In his daily life, Dita has had no serious issues with his neighbors, his activities were normal. It is only natural that he went under the radar, as he was not intensively monitored due to lack of significant activity,” Khairul said.
Ridlwan explained that the intelligence people were fooled, because intelligence data-taking stops at monitoring. These terrorists can fool the intelligence during the monitoring phase if they were aware of it. For example, Dita, who attacked the Surabaya churches with his wife and children, was known to have good relations with their neighbors, showing absolutely no indication that they will be perpetrating terror.
“This is what caught our officers off guard. This is the time of total evaluation, especially since the attacks continue. The Polrestabes Surabaya attack prove that the cells are still alive. They only have 2 choices, i.e. fight to the death or escape. Looks like they chose to fight,” Ridlwan said. “I tell you that this suicide bombing will not be the last, because there are indications that the group is still preparing to attack other targets.”
Darraz concludes that the main trigger is ideology, then followed by economy. “In fact, the church bombers were from upper middle class – they have a business, a nice house. That means that the economic factor is negligible. Anyone can be radicalized when the ideology has stuck,” he said.
Radicalism can grow freely because they are ideas, and we cannot punish ideas. “What we can do is to make efforts to prevent them, as we cannot simply imprison anyone just for having ideological thinking. Therefore, we must counter it from our own neighborhood, and I hope that we can make it through early education of children. We must educate them to strengthen their acceptance of unity, tolerance, moderation, and critical view of the various doctrines so far used to scare the young,” he said. (Dessy Aipipidely)