The EU as a counter-terrorism actor abroad

This paper by the EPC looks at thehandling of counter-terrorism in the ensemble of EU external relations and assistance vis-à-vis five countries of recognised importance for European interests: Algeria, Morocco, Yemen, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

Counterterrorism Squad Densus 88 Now Its Own Police Unit

As part of an internal restructuring process, the Indonesian National Police officially turned Densus 88 (Detachment 88) into a dedicated department within the force, directly responsible to the National Police chief and separating it from the detectives unit. By making Densus 88 a separate department, communication would improve with other law enforcement agencies, particularly the newly established National Anti-Terrorism Agency (BNPT).

Indonesia’s new anti-terror chief seeks tougher laws

The new chief of Indonesia’s anti-terror agency complained Tuesday that courts were being too easy on terrorists and called for tougher laws to fight jihadist extremists. National Anti-Terror Agency (BNPT) Ansyaad Mbai said there was an “urgent need” to amend the anti-terror laws in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, following a series of attacks since 2000. He said sentences should be lengthened, preparatory activities such as militant training and incitement should be criminalised, and police should be able to hold suspects for longer before they must be charged or released.

“I think there’s an urgent need to amend the anti-terror laws, especially on the length of sentences,” he told reporters after being appointed to his new role.

“There were many who were released (from jail) and then got involved again. There were those who were sentenced to seven years but after three years they were given remissions. This is strange, isn’t it?”

He said some terrorists had been arrested but had to be released because police did not have enough time to gather evidence.

“Later it’s clear they were involved again and then they had to be shot, like Air Setiawan,” he said, referring to an alleged terrorist who was killed by police last year after twin suicide attacks on Jakarta hotels in July.

The discovery of a militant training camp in Aceh province in February — which gathered Islamist extremists from around the region — also highlighted the need for laws against preparatory acts, Mbai said.

“Militant training hasn’t been included as a crime… In other countries it’s considered a serious crime,” he said.

“Then there are those activities which provoke or incite people to carry out acts of terror… The focus is prevention. We have to prevent them before they take part in militant training which means they must be arrested.”

He said incitement to burn Christian churches or expel “infidels” should be criminalised to prevent Indonesia being “showered in bombs”.

“If there’s no conviction we’ll always be reactive. Wait for the bomb to go off and only then become nervous. That’s too late,” he said.

Indonesia was also studying the experience of Saudi Arabia to improve its deradicalisation programme, which has been dismissed as a myth by top anti-terror police officers.

Senior police have recently issued stark warnings that the Southeast Asian country’s prisons are at risk of becoming schools of violent jihad rather than institutions of reform.

Indonesia: New Anti-Terrorism Agency Established

On July 30, 2010, it was reported that the Indonesian government had issued a regulation formalizing the establishment of a new National Anti-Terrorism Agency.

Presidential Regulation No. 46 of 2010 was made under the 2003 Anti-Terrorism Law (Law No. 15 of 2003) and tasks the new agency with “formulating policies/national programs, coordinating government offices concerned with regard to its implementation and implementing policies in the field of anti-terrorism by set up [sic] taskforces with members from government offices in line with their respective tasks, functions, authorities.” )

The agency will be responsible to the President of Indonesia, but coordination responsibilities will sit with the Coordinating Minister for Security, Political and Legal Affairs. (Id.) The regulation places existing anti-terrorism units under one authority, including the National Police’s Anti-Terror Squad (known as Detachment 88), the National Intelligence Agency, anti-terrorism units from the Indonesian military, as well as the Anti-Terrorism Desk currently operating under the Office of the Coordinating Minister for Political, Security and Legal Affairs.

A spokesman from the Minister’s office said that it was hoped that the structure and staffing of the agency would be settled by the end of the year and that “[w]e will equip all units with personnel from various fields who possess the specific skills to perform the tasks required.”

Some human rights activists have raised concerns about aspects of the new agency, saying that the regulation should be clearer about what constitutes a “radical” group or individual and about the extent to which the military will be involved in enforcing anti-terrorism laws.

Indonesia: The Dark Side of Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT)

The International Crisis Group has published an overview on Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), the organization led by Indonesia’s best-known radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir founded in 2008.


An ostensibly above-ground organisation, it has embraced individuals with known ties to fugitive extremists. It has welcomed many members of the militant Jema’ah Islamiyah (JI) but clashed with the JI leadership over strategy and tactics.  It preaches jihad against Islam’s enemies but insists it stays within the law – though it rejects man-made laws as illegitimate.  (…)

The dark side of JAT’s activities came into the spotlight on 6 May 2010, when Indonesian police raided its Jakarta headquarters and charged three officials with raising funds for a militant training camp uncovered in Aceh in late February. On 12 May, police carried out a reconstruction of a meeting in South Jakarta involving two men now in custody known to have served as camp instructors and another, who wore a large name tag reading “Abu Bakar Ba’asyir”. JAT’s alleged involvement in fundraising and combat training immediately led to speculation that another arrest of 72-year-old Ba’asyir was imminent. 

Even if he is arrested – for the third time since the first Bali bombs – the impact will be limited, both in terms of Indonesian extremism and the domestic political fallout. Ba’asyir has been a perpetual thorn in the side of successive governments since the early 1970s. He is very much the elder statesman of Indonesia’s radical movement, but he is neither the driving force behind it now nor its leading ideologue, and he has numerous critics among fellow jihadis who cite his lack of strategic sense and poor management skills. (…)

The truth is that the jihadi project has failed in Indonesia. The rifts and shifting alignments so evident now in the jihadi community are a reaction to that failure. There is no indication that violent extremism is gaining ground. Instead, as with JAT’s formation, we are seeing the same old faces finding new packages for old goods. The far bigger challenge for Indonesia is to manage the aspirations of the thousands who join JAT rallies for its public message: that democracy is antithetical to Islam, that only an Islamic state can uphold the faith, and that Islamic law must be the source of all justice. (…)

Indonesia’s struggling deradicalisation policy

Indonesia’s vaunted “deradicalisation programme” aimed at bringing terrorists back into mainstream Islam has been exposed as a myth by recent arrests of re-offenders, analysts and police said. Senior police now acknowledge that no such programme exists and are issuing increasingly stark warnings that, on the contrary, the mainly Muslim country’s prisons are at risk of becoming schools of violent jihad.

The final straw appears to have been the re-arrest Wednesday of Abdullah Sunata, 32, on suspicion of plotting attacks on the Danish embassy and a police parade. He was released from jail last year for good behaviour after serving only a fraction of a seven-year sentence for his role in a 2004 attack on the Australian embassy, which killed 10 people.

National police spokesman Edward Aritonang said Sunata’s case was further evidence that Indonesia’s prisons, far from helping to rehabilitate terrorists, risked turning into terrorist “schools”.

It is time to look at a “new system or method, so the counselling for prisoners truly works and prisons don’t become schools” of radicalisation, he said.

Counter-terrorism squad chief Colonel Tito Karnavian complains that the notoriously corrupt correction system effectively provides extremists a sanctuary to preach, recruit and plot.

Recognising the danger, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has ordered the creation of a national counter-terrorism body, focusing on prevention and rehabilitation, which will report directly to him. But Karnavian warned that an “extra-judicial body” would be “prone to be politicised” — a possible reference to Islamic parties in the ruling coalition — and said police should remain in charge of all counter-terrorism efforts.

Noor Huda Ismail, a former extremist who now works directly with terrorist prisoners to bring them back into moderate society, said Indonesia had never had a proper deradicalisation plan.

Indonesia’s anti-terror campaign under fire

It is reported that the Indonesian anti-terror squad hurtled from a white van on a bustling street as their quarry — three terror suspects — stepped out of a taxi. They shoved one to the ground and when he tried to shake free, shot him in the head. Another died from a bullet to the chest. The third was led away, his hands tied behind his back and his shirt covered in blood, only to turn up dead hours later.

Witnesses of the operation in east Jakarta told The Associated Press that none of the three suspects appeared to carry a weapon or to put up much resistance. Police deny that, saying they were armed and dangerous.

Authorities have identified only one of the suspects: Maulana, who was shot in the chest, was accused of involvement in a jihadi training camp in Aceh province and a failed plot on Indonesia’s deputy house speaker, said National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri.

The other two men remain unidentified — and, it now appears, may have been implicated simply because they were riding with Maulana in the taxi. Police claim they were linked to the Aceh cell as well.

This episode is not unusual in Indonesia, where U.S.-trained forces at the core of the anti-terror fight have a startling kill-to-capture ratio: One suspect killed for every four arrested.

The deaths not only raise human rights concerns, but risk fueling Islamist propaganda and tarnishing what has been a highly praised campaign that has seen hundreds of suspects arrested and convicted. The killings also mean the suspects cannot be questioned and there is no chance to gather intelligence on their networks.

Indonesia: Anti-terror squad abuses alleged

On May 26, 2010, the Muslim Lawyers Team (TPM, a group of lawyers known for defending the suspects in the Bali bombing of 2002) submitted a report to the Indonesian National Commission of Human Rights concerning members of Detachment 88, an anti-terrorism police squad. The 15 members of TPM alleged that the police had committed human rights abuses during several raids in the last few months that had resulted in the death of suspects. According to the Deputy Chairman of the Commission, Ridha Saleh, the government body is studying the report.

Guntur Farahillah, a member of TPM, stated that the police failed “to prove the role of a number of the killed suspects in terrorism”; he pointed to raids in Bekasi and Cawang as examples of what he called “irregularities” during such raids. In the Cawang incident, three men were shot and killed by the police, but only one revolver was found as evidence. In addition, witnesses stated that they saw police officers hitting a suspect with a rock and then shooting him. The father of a terror suspect now facing trial in Indonesia has supported the allegations against the police, calling the police “very brutal,” and adding, “[t]hey killed anybody they thought involved in terrorism [sic] without sufficient evidence.”

Responding to the allegations of abuse, National Police Chief General Bambang Hendarso Danuri has argued that the suspects who were killed in the raids were very dangerous individuals and that three policemen had been killed in a fight with a terrorist group in Aceh Province this year.

Terrorist arrests in Jakarta

(Counterterrorism blog) On 6 May, the Indonesian counter-terrorist unit, Special Detachment 88, arrested seven persons in South Jakarta on suspicion of terrorist activities. Though details of the arrests have yet to be revealed, a police source stated that the seven moved to Jakarta a year ago and had been under surveillance for the past three months.

The Indonesian media has speculated that one of the suspects may be Abu Thola, who was at one time head of the Special Forces wing of Jemaah Islamiyah. He was the target of a failed police raid in Central Java in 2003. The media has further speculated that the police are targeting Thola because he may have information on links between fiery cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and Jemaah Islamiyah. Ba’asyir was convicted but later exonerated of leading Jemaah Islamiyah.

Following the arrests, the police hinted that more were to come in the near future. With U.S. President Barack Obama slated to pass through Jakarta next month, these moves may be part of a wider effort to guarantee security ahead of the visit.

UPI report: “Terror financing: still hard nut to crack”

United Press International discusses the strategies undertaken by the US in order to contrast the financing of terrorism.


The European Union plans to get together with the United States next month to hammer out a new pact to disrupt the financing networks of al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.

The U.S. Treasury Department has been able to score notable successes against al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas and other groups by targeting these networks. But it has long complained that it is not getting the cooperation it needs from the Middle East and Asia to deliver a critical blow.

A trial under way in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, of a Saudi Arabian accused of financing a militant group illustrates the challenges involved in shutting loopholes exploited by the terrorist factions and their shadowy facilitators on a global scale.

Ali Abdullah is charged with providing 54 million rupiah — about $6,000 — to a terrorist faction linked to Jemmah Islamiah, an al-Qaida affiliate and the main jihadist group in Southeast Asia, and with raising money in Saudi Arabia to support terrorism in Asia. He claims he is innocent.

His trial is providing a glimpse of the ever-mutating financing network from the Gulf to the Far East and the immense difficulties the Americans and their allies face in tearing it down.


The U.S. Government Accounting Office declared in September that the Saudis had made significant progress in the war against terrorism, including shutting down financial conduits to al-Qaida from individuals and charities.

The GOA stressed there was no indication that the Saudi government was providing funds but warned that much more needed to be done by Riyadh to curb the clandestine bankrolling of terrorism.


Counter-terrorism specialists say that while the Saudis have made progress in cutting off terrorist financing, those gains are undermined by the failure of other Gulf states to crack down.

“Financing terrorism is not institutionalized any more in Saudi Arabia,” one Western official in Riyadh commented. “We’re concerned that the main finance activities are shifting to countries perceived as tolerant by the West, like Dubai and Qatar, because they did not face the same scrutiny as Saudi Arabia.”