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The Indonesia-Philippines Terror Link

Updated On: Aug 14, 2007

Terrorism remains a challenge to Southeast Asian security and Philippines has been singled out as the weakest link in the region’s fight against terrorism. 

Southern part of Philippines continued to be a safe haven for many militants linked to the Al Qaeda and JI movement. 

Two top Indonesian terror experts, Umar Patek and Dulmatin were reportedly involved in  a recent, and heaviest fighting in years between Muslim militants and the Philippines armed forces in the southernisland of Jolo. 54 were killed, including 26 soldiers, in the clashes.  Patek and Dulmatin were Indonesia's top outlaws who have been given sanctuary in Jolo by Abu Sayyaf commanders.  Indonesia, house to the largest Muslim population is also struggling to hold back terrorism, which is often related to radicalism among small groups hijacking the name of Islam.

A recent rally by hardline Muslim group, the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), calling for the revival of caliphate to unite all Muslims may give rise to further concerns.  However, the spokesman for the group, Muhammad Ismail Yusanto was quick to clarify that the group is a peaceful organization and is not proposing revolution but instead suggest a gradual approach to achieve its aim of implementing Syariah law throughout Indonesia and turning Indonesia into an Islamic state.

HTI also said that it rejected democracy but recognized pluralism. However, it does not reject election and supported its followers to use their rights to vote during the election in 2004.  Observers speculated that this rally which attracted some 90,000 followers, was hold to test the mass, and its readiness to form a political party which will compete in the next election. If it happens, it could be a great challenge for other Islamic parties in Indonesia such as the Prosperous and Justice Party (PKS).

Another event which attract much media attention in Indonesia since the last weekend (11 Aug) is the powerful bomb blast killing 3 people and damaging 12 houses in Pasuruan, East Java, about 60 km from Surabaya.  While some were quick to link this to terror attack, police chief, Herman Sumawiredja told a  press conference on Sunday that the blast on was unlikely a terrorist act. Police believe the explosives were intended for illegal fishing, which is common in the area. However, the police will not rule out terrorism yet, and will continue their investigation to see whether the bomb blast is related to any terror act. (13 August 2007)

Sources:

Blast terror link unknown: Police (Jakarta Post, 13 August 2007)

Military: 2 Indonesian terror suspects helped launch attack on troops in Philippines (Jakarta Post, 12 August 2007)

Police arrest house-owner for blast in East Java (Jakarta Post, 12 August 2007)

2 killed, 4 injured in Pasuruan bomb blast (Jakarta Post, 12 August 2007)                   

Blast in Pasuruan likely comes from bombs for fishing (Jakarta Post, 12 August 2007)

Police yet to confirm cause of blast in Pasuruan (Jakarta Post, 12 August 2007)

Death toll from Indonesia blast rises to three (Antara, 12 August 2007)

Call to revive caliphate in Indonesia (Straits Times, 13 August 2007)