Indonesia launched a preemptive strike against terrorist groups in the central Sulawesi region, killing two members of the East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) in a clash on Tuesday, amid monitoring of Turkey’s role in facilitating the transfer of Uyghur fighters to Jakarta to join terrorist groups in Indonesia.
Didik Sobranoto, spokesman for the police in Sulawesi, announced that two MIT militants were shot dead in an armed clash on Tuesday in the Parigi Moutong district of the central Sulawesi region, adding that the militants had shot at the police who tried to arrest them.
The Central Sulawesi region has been witnessing joint military operations between the army and the police to arrest MIT members for more than five years.
East Indonesia Mujahideen
The East Indonesia Mujahideen pledged allegiance to ISIS in July 2014 and has been blamed for a wave of murders of policemen in the region. Its most famous attacks were the Jakarta attack in 2016 and the Surabaya bombings in 2018.
The Poso regency is the most prominent area in which the extremist group is present, where it plays on sectarian conflicts, as the area witnessed violence between Christians and Muslims in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Christian girls were beheaded there in 2005, and MIT leader Ali Kalora took advantage of these charged feelings.
MIT leader Abu Wardah Santoso, who was killed in 2016, had pledged allegiance to late ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, making MIT the first Indonesian group to swear allegiance to ISIS.
After the Indonesian security forces killed Santoso in 2016, many thought that his group would collapse, but starting from 2020, the terrorist group regained part of its strength, launching multiple attacks during the past few months and proving its endurance.
After Santoso, Ali Kalora took over the leadership of the group. Kalora grew up in the mountains and jungles of Poso in central Sulawesi, where his group outperforms the Indonesian authorities since he knows that region well.
Kalora has also worked to increase MIT’s funding, and it is said that the terrorist group receives money from terrorist networks and supporters abroad. The group is trying to improve its explosive capabilities, as the authorities seized materials and bombs during the raid campaigns.
Turkey also plays a role indirectly by supporting the organization with fighters from Turkish nationalities in Central and East Asia, especially Uyghur fighters and the Turkistan Islamic Party, which is linked to al-Qaeda and has hidden ties with Turkey. Turkish passports were used by Uyghurs, who were seeking to communicate with MIT.
Uyghur fighters allied with ISIS have also traveled to Indonesia to participate in terrorist attacks against Shiites, Christians and the Indonesian government in central Sulawesi. One of the Uyghurs, named Faruq, was killed by Indonesian security personnel in November 2014, while another named Ali was arrested on accusations of planning a terrorist attack.
China was contacted by the Indonesian government, which requested assistance in confronting members of Uyghur terrorist organizations in Indonesia.
Indonesia and South Central Asia are witnessing the spread of many extremist groups loyal to al-Qaeda and ISIS, and Jakarta has paid a heavy price in blood due to terrorist operations.
To confront terrorist groups, the Indonesian parliament passed a new law on May 25, 2018 that gives the police more powers to take preemptive measures against those suspected of having links with terrorism. A wave of bloody suicide bombings last month has increased pressure on lawmakers to pass new legislation in the most populous Muslim country.