Amid COVID-19 pandemic, surge of attacks by Islamic militant group Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) prompted reprisals from security forces in Central Sulawesi, while security operations continued in Papua in response to March deadly attack on PT Freeport gold mine office. Security forces launched reprisals against suspected members of separatist armed group, West Papua Liberation Army, who had claimed responsibility for March deadly attack in Timika, Papua province. Military 9 April reportedly raided house in Mimika regency, killing two suspected insurgents; next day killed another suspect in Tembagapura mining district. Separatist political umbrella, Free Papua Movement, 11 April proposed ceasefire to govt to allow both sides to focus on efforts to contain spread of COVID-19, but govt failed to respond. Security forces 13 April shot and killed two men near PT Freeport gold Grasberg mine; local rights activists claimed men were misidentified as insurgents, military said 15 April it would investigate incident. Also in Papua, a clash between military and police officers 12 April left three policemen dead in Mamberamo district. Series of deadly attacks involving MIT erupted in Central Sulawesi province, allegedly reflecting group’s attempt to take advantage of COVID-19 crisis: MIT militants early April kidnapped and beheaded farmer suspected of being informer; police on around 10 April shot and killed 20-year old, suspected to be MIT supporter despite reports contradicting claim, in Tobe village; 15 April police killed two suspected MIT militants after they attacked police officer in Poso city; MIT militants 19 April kidnapped and killed farmer in Kilo village; security forces 25 April shot and killed senior MIT member also in Kilo. Across country, police continued to arrest suspected members of Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), including 13 April arrests of four suspected JAD members in Southeast Sulawesi province, reportedly plotting attacks, and 10 April of another three JAD suspects in Java island. In North Sulawesi province, prison riot broke out 11 April, allegedly triggered by COVID-19 related measures and fears among detainees.
A dispute over a flag in Aceh is testing the limits of autonomy, irritating Indonesia’s central government, heightening ethnic tensions, reviving a campaign for the division of the province and raising fears of violence as the 2014 national elections approach.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono needs to act more firmly against institutions and officials that defy national court rulings or his inaction risks prolonging local conflicts.
The only measure likely to halt violence in Indonesia’s Papua province in the short term is a major overhaul of security policy.
Almost ten years after the 2002 Bali bombing, Indonesian extremists are weak and divided but still finding partners for new operations.
Election monitors should begin deployment to Aceh long before the 9 April election to deter intimidation.
Despite years of investment in community policing, the Indonesian police remain deeply distrusted by the people they are supposed to serve.
Lecture by Sidney Jones at International Policy Studies program of Stanford University, 5 December 2012.
Originally published in The Interpreter
Originally published in The Jakarta Globe
Originally published in Myanmar Times