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International Crisis Group Says Indonesia Must Weaken Islamic Militants

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

A new report by a leading conflict-resolution organization says studying the workings of Indonesia's militant Islamic groups at the local level can help weaken them nationwide.

The International Crisis Group's new report looks at two conflict areas in eastern Indonesia: the Poso district of Sulawesi Island, and the eastern Maluku Islands.

Both areas have experienced bitter fighting between Christians and Muslims, and Islamic militants have traveled to both regions from other parts of Indonesia to join in the fighting.

The report takes two violent incidents in Indonesia last May - the bombing of a market in Poso and the execution of paramilitary police in the Malukus - as case studies in how Indonesia's Islamic militant networks are formed and operate.

The report says the attack on a paramilitary outpost in Ceram, a city in the Malukus, shows how a disparate group of men from different militant groups came together to form a team and launch the attack.

It says one of the groups might have been Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist network linked to al-Qaida. The group is believed to be behind this month's bombing on the resort island of Bali, which killed 20 people, and also the attack on Bali in 2002 that claimed more than 200 lives.

Sidney Jones, the International Crisis Group's Southeast Asia Project Director, says studying how the local groups work can help to fight Muslim extremism around the country.

"I think if there is specific attention to these particular groups, not only do you help reduce the violence in these conflict areas themselves, but you also remove a dangerous element of nationwide mujahedin networks," she said.

One of the militants convicted in the 2004 bombing outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta is Iwan Darmawan, also known as Rois. Ms. Jones notes that Rois had previously been involved in the troubles in Poso.

"Well we certainly know, for example, that Rois, who was just sentenced to death for the embassy bombing in Jakarta in September last year, was someone who spent several months in Poso, both fighting and training other people. And Poso was where we believe he came into direct contact with J.I., making possible the partnership that led to the embassy bombing," said Ms. Jones.

The report recommends vocational training for former militants, and exploring the possibility of community development programs that would include members of militant networks, both Muslim and Christian.

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