Dr. Nermin Mohamed Tawfik
Extremist and terrorist organizations always take alternative bases in case they lose their strongholds. For instance, the Muslim Brotherhood takes Britain as a major stronghold for its operations the Middle East’s leading countries, i.e. Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Meanwhile, it also takes Eastern Europe and South-East Asian countries, i.e. Indonesia and Malaysia as strategic alternative centers if their main strongholds get under pressure or shut down.
Like the Brotherhood, al-Qaeda has adopted the very same approach. While is considered the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan as main strongholds, it has launched alternative centers in Indonesia.
Certainly, al-Qaeda has managed to have a strong pro-wing in Indonesia. ISIS has also sought presence in South-East Asia, especially Indonesia, to take it as a home following its defeat in Iraq and Syria.
This study shed light on terrorist expansion in the region in the new millennium.
- ISIS expansion in Southeast Asia
ISIS has relied on the allegiance of the historically hard-line militant groups in Southeast Asia. These hard-line groups are led by Jamaat-e-Islami Indonesia (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines.
The two groups have launched attacks for decades against the governments of the two countries for separatist motives in Muslim-dominated territories.
The two groups have significantly developed since the emergence of ISIS and the declaration of a caliphate in Syria and Iraq in 2014.
The two groups pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS leader. The objective was to expand further, and globalize their war against the two countries in a bid to strengthen their forces with new fighters.
In 2015, Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi. In 2016, ISIS broadcast a video featuring the appointment of Isnilon Hapilon as emir of the Philippines state.
The pledges, or bayat, were accepted in the video, which featured an Indonesia, a Filipno and a Mayisian in the Sryrian city of Raqqa.
In Indonesia, Abu Bakar Bashir, head of Jamaat-e-Islami Indonesia, who is one of Indonesia’s most prominent Islamic leaders, announced his allegiance to ISIS in August 2014. Bashir sought to establish an Islamic state in Southeast Asia, not only in Indonesia.
He had strong ties with Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda organization. In 1988, Bashir met with bin Laden and Abdullah Azzam on a trip to Pakistan.
Jamaat-e-Islami Indonesia backed al-Qaeda and sent its fighters to train in Afghanistan. However, the movement changed its name to Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid in due to security crackdown and strikes launched by the Indonesian security backed by the United States and Australia.
The Indonesian police said a number of ISIS attacks were foiled last year.
Jamaat-e-Islami Indonesia or Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid was not the only Indonesian group that announced allegiance to ISIS. The number of groups that pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi has reached 22, including the East Indonesia Mujahideen which pledged the allegiance in July 2014 in the island of Sulawesi.
East Indonesian Mujahideen leader Abu Warda Santoso pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi in 2014.
In 2015, the pro-ISIS Jamaah Ansharut Daulah organization was formed by a coalition of dissident groups, headed by Aman Abdurrahman, who was in prison.
The United States labeled Jamaah Ansharut Daulah a terrorist organization in January 2017 due to suicide bombings that killed four citizens in Jakarta in on January 14, 2016.
On Christmas Day, THE Indonesian security forces foiled a suicide attack plotted by Jamaah Ansharut Daulah in Jakarta.
Jamaah Ansharut Daulah and Jamaat-e-Islami Indonesia share a number of characteristics, but they are different in terms of targets.
Jamaat-e-Islami Indonesia believes that it should attack only non-Muslims and foreign officials, citing that attacking Muslims is not lawful. That has been evident in the Bali bombings and targeting tourists.
However, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah say that attacking government officials, especially policemen and even civilians, is lawful.
Wawan Purwanto of the Indonesian intelligence linked the church bombings to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah.
- Family terrorism
ISIS used a new mechanism for its church bombings in May 2018 based on one-whole family approach to carry out a terrorist attack.
The suicide attackers comprised father, mother and four children. The terrorist organization has been focusing on launching attacks on big cities such as Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, in addition to security and religious targets.
- ISIS objectives in Indonesia
ISIS is seeking to achieve a number of objectives via its presence on Indonesia.
- ISIS is looking for new places to make up for its defeats in Syria and Iraq. The organization has reiterated it wants to penetrate Southeast Asia. It has announced its state in the Philippines.
- Exploitation of Southeast Asian fighters who returned from Syria and Iraq to be its supporters.
- Taking advantage of Indonesia’s location. ISIS is seeking to is seeking to expand in the Philippines, Malaysia and Australia.
- The implementation of the survival and expansion strategy. ISIS has based its strategy on three regions: the Levant, the Midddle East and North Africa (MENA) , in addition to remote regions in Europe and Asia. To this end, ISIS has selected Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in terms of population.
- Indonesia’s legislative efforts to combat terrorism
On May 25, 2018, the Indonesian parliament passed a new bill giving police more powers to take tougher action against suspects. According to the bill, the police can detain terrorist suspects for up to 21 days, up from one week in the old law.