News / Asia

Indonesian Terrorist Sweeps Raise Concern Over Police Tactics

Since February, Indonesian security forces have killed 13 terrorist suspects during police raids. Police defend their tactics, saying they act to protect themselves and the public. But human rights groups and security analysts are questions the motives behind what they call "shoot-on-sight" tactics.

When Indonesia's elite counterterrorism unit, Detachment 88, took out the country's top terrorist suspect several months ago, witnesses say he was sitting in an Internet café on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Police said the man known as Dulmatin, suspected of masterminding the bomb attacks in Bali in 2002, was armed and dangerous.  According to Indonesian authorities, Dulmatin shot at police and officers then fired several rounds of ammunition before killing him. The United States had placed a $10 million price tag on Dulmatin's head and Indonesian security forces celebrated his killing as a major victory.

A total of 61 terrorists have been captured and 13 others have been killed since February, when police discovered and raided a hidden training camp in the mountains of Aceh.

But Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism analyst with the International Institute for Peacebuilding said such security sweeps against suspected terrorists is part of a troubling pattern.  Noor Huda is calling for an open investigation into the recent shootings, pointing out that witness testimony raises concerns about whether these suspects posed a real threat.

Police may be purposely targeting some terrorist suspects rather than relying on a legal system that some say is too lenient, said Noor Huda.

In 2005, Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir - the accused spiritual leader of the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah - received a 30-month sentence after being convicted of conspiracy related to the Bali bombings.  He was released on good behavior after serving 25 months in prison.  Six months later, the Indonesian Supreme Court overturned his conviction based, on witness testimony.

Police need to uphold the law, Noor Huda said, regardless of their doubts about the legal system, because their current operations fuel the belief that security forces are no different from the terrorists.

"The police are not in the killing business. I know those guys in the killing business. If we do the same thing we are like them. Noor Huda acknowledges that "they are bad guys. They are terrorists. They might kill us. [And] they kill civilians. But we don't want to behave like them, right?"

Noor Huda said in the past police have been successful in apprehending more than 500 alleged terrorists since Detachment 88 was formed in 2002, following the suicide bombings in Bali that killed more than 200 people.  The United States, which has provided training and support to the force, also commends it for its ability to prevent possible attacks by dismantling training camps and confiscating explosive materials and weapons.

Tito Karnavian, head of Detachment 88, dismisses claims that the police are involved in any planned killings of terrorist suspects. Their job, said Tito, is to apprehend alleged terrorists, and it is up to prosecutors and the courts to convict them. Tito disputes criticism that his men are acting with unnecessary force.  

"The police understand which one is really hardcore, which one is the militants, which one is really sympathizers, which one is supporters … These kind of mechanism observations really shape the sensitivity of our officers in doing raids," said Tito.

As an example, he points to two back-to-back operations in May. In the first one, police shot dead Maulana, a hardline militant suspected of procuring weapons and cash to be used in a major attack on high-profile leaders in Jakarta.  Tito said police knew Maulana was extremely dangerous and they went in prepared to shoot at the first sign of trouble.

The next day police stormed a house in central Java, arresting three people and seizing a cache of M-16s, AK-47 and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.  No bullets were fired that day, said Tito, because, thanks to intelligence, the police knew they were dealing with more moderate suspects than Maulana.

Inspector General Ansyaad Mbai, head of the counter-terrorism desk at the Coordinating Ministry for Legal, Political and Security Affairs, said it is the constitutional responsibility of the government to protect more than 200 million people in Indonesia.  He added because terrorists are committing extraordinary crimes, police need to respond with extraordinary measures.

Still, Noor Huda and other analysts say security forces must reassure a skeptical public that they are operating under the law when trying to capture terrorists and maintain public security.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid