Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Unexpected Terror

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  • Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal, and Security Wiranto was attacked by a man holding a knife during the minister's visit to Islamic boarding school Mathla'ul Anwar, Labuan, Banten, on Thursday, October 10, 2019. The perpetrator was immediately caught by the police. Photo: Special

    Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal, and Security Wiranto was attacked by a man holding a knife during the minister's visit to Islamic boarding school Mathla'ul Anwar, Labuan, Banten, on Thursday, October 10, 2019. The perpetrator was immediately caught by the police. Photo: Special

    TEMPO.CO, JakartaThe attack on Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto was a humiliation for the intelligence services and the police. Although it failed, the assassination attempt also sounded the alarm that terrorist cells are still active and dangerous.

    Wiranto was attacked in the open, at close range, at Menes Square, Pandeglang, Banten, last week. The attacker was no marksmen concealed in a hiding place, but a skinny man armed only with a sharp knife.

    The attacker, Shahril Alamsyah alias Abu Rara, waited for his target behind a police officer. As Wiranto stepped out of his car, he quickly bypassed the escort, then stabbed the former commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces. Judging by the widely shared video recording, Wiranto and his entourage were unprepared for the sudden attack.

    This incident is worrying. If the authorities are so negligent in guarding a senior official, how can they protect ordinary people? After all, the chief of the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) and senior police officers have said that Abu Rara had long been on their radar. There were also intelligence reports that Abu Rara and his wife, Fitria Dana, were members of Bekasi Jamaah Ansharud Daulah (JAD), which is said to have links with the ISIS network.

    The intelligence agencies and the police also claim that they had been watching Abu Rara’s movements since last September, when Bekasi JAD leader Fazri Pahlawan, alias Abu Zee Ghuroba, was arrested along with a number of his followers. The authorities even knew that Abu Rara then started collecting bladed weapons – a move that could be seen as preparing for an attack. It is very strange that the authorities did nothing, given that the new terrorism law states that action can be taken against anyone preparing, testing or even talking about an act of terrorism.

    People who attack state officials must be punished. The terrorist networks behind them must be shut down. But the pursuit of terrorist networks must still respect human rights. Previous responses to terror attacks have taught us that hunts for terrorist networks that do not consider human rights only result in new terror for the people.

    The eradication of terrorism needs more than upholding the law or restoring security, especially since recruitment and organization of terrorism recently has been based around autonomous cells. It is difficult to map terror networks. Terrorism has become more dangerous because it is becoming less visible. Even with good intelligence analysis, it will not be possible to prevent 100 percent of terrorist attacks.

    In this context, it is important to pay attention to changing the ideological aspirations of the members of terror networks and to breaking up their networks. Efforts to de-radicalize the religious understanding of former terrorists deserve serious attention. This de-radicalization efforts needs a long time – and is slower than the radicalization that can be triggered by various situations and incidents. It must be attempted alongside an endeavor to battle poverty and social injustice, considered to be one of the causes of radicalism. For example, there are indications that Abu Rara became more radical after his family in Medan was evicted from their home.

    Therefore, the war on terrorism must also consider the social and economic aspects. Those who are exposed to radical teachings, after being made aware, must be given an opportunity to return to a normal life in society. They must also be given a chance to strive to earn a decent living. Without this opportunity, former members of terror networks are very likely to return to the fold of their old networks, or even establish new terror networks.

    While continuing de-radicalization efforts, the government should also use the attack on Wiranto to spur on reforms to the intelligence agencies and the anti-terror authorities. Both are state bodies, not government institutions. Complaints that intelligence agencies are too busy mapping out and muzzling opponents deserve attention. The abuses of power they are accused of, including using intelligence assets to bring down political opponents – should be stopped.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine