JAKARTA — The search in Indonesia for four terrorists continues, a week after hundreds of inmates escaped from a maximum-security prison in Sumatra. Indonesian police have deployed a special operations unit to capture the dangerous individuals and neighboring Malaysia is on high alert.
More than 200 inmates managed to escape Tanjung Gusta Prison in the fatal riot that ensued last Thursday as prisoners protested against poor facilities and a tighter remissions policy.
More than 100 of the escaped fugitives have been recaptured, but 106 prisoners are on the loose - including four convicted terrorists.
The four men: Fadli Sadama, Agus Sunyoto, Nibras and Abdul Gani Sirgear - were jailed in connection with a bank robbery in North Sumatra, and an attack on a police station in 2010.
The fugitives are said to be linked to Toni Togar, an Indonesian terrorist with ties to the Southeast Asian extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah. Togar is currently serving a 20-year sentence for his role in a series of church bombings in 2000.
Indonesian terror analyst Noor Huda Ismail said that of the four, Fadli Sadama, a repeat offender with regional terror linkages, is the most dangerous.
“He is a very committed individual to the cause, to the jihad," the analyst explained. "I interviewed him two times and he expressed no remorse whatsoever for what he did in the past. So the likelihood of him going back to his networks is quite high. But the challenge is whether he can find a safe house, or contacts that can support him as well as logistical support.”
Huda said there is a strong link between jihadists and criminals in Sumatra, and Sadama is likely to exploit both to find a safe refuge.
In the past, Sadama, 27, smuggled methamphetamines from Malaysia to Indonesia to fund terror activities.
He was arrested in the Malaysian state of Johor Baru in 2010 after he was caught trying to smuggle guns back into Indonesia.
With multiple illegal entry points, Malaysia’s counterterrorism taskforce says it has advised authorities to more vigilantly patrol its borders.
The National Police has deployed its U.S.-funded anti-terrorism taskforce to Medan, released pictures of the individuals and urged the public to report any sightings.
But Noor Huda Ismail said the prison outbreak is symptomatic of wider problems in Indonesia’s detention system.
“I think what happened in Medan is only the tip of an iceberg," the analyst noted. "It is only the problem that you see on the surface. Underground, our operations are still facing difficult problems with over-capacity, corruption and also human resources problems. So terrorism is just one of the problems, but the prison conditions generally are a problem."
A reminder of the problems within the prison system surfaced Wednesday morning, when 12 inmates escaped from Negara Baloi detention center in Batam.
The fugitives, who held the prison warden captive until he released them, are all suspects in various drug-related cases.