POLICE in Indonesia have identified terrorism and the spread of fake news through social media as the two biggest national security threats expected to confront the nation in 2017.
According to Jakarta Post, national police chief Gen Tito Karnavian says the local force will make the two issues their top priority, especially terrorism, which the world’s most populous Muslim nation has become increasingly vulnerable to of late.
Indonesia’s counter-terrorism unit foiled the bombing bids when they arrested the militants involved; 14 over the presidential palace plot and two over the holiday attacks, while at least two co-conspirators were reported killed during a raid last Sunday.
While the elite unit known as Special Detachment 88 (Densus 88) has drawn praise for its successes in stemming the attacks (Indonesia has foiled at least 15 such attacks this year and made over 150 arrests), these recent events have sparked renewed concern in the country over the apparent proliferation of sleeper cells with links to the Islamist State (IS) global terror network.
But Tito says his men will continue to turn the tide on militants and proceed with Operation Tinambola in the restive Poso region in Central Sulawesi, Jakarta Post reports. Their target: To hunt members of the terrorist group East Indonesia Mujahidin (EIM) founded by Santoso, Indonesia’s most wanted Muslim radical who was killed in July. The EIM is also said to be linked to IS.
The report also quotes Tito saying the police will be monitoring those flying to and from Syria where a civil war continues to rage, to prevent the spread of the IS ideology back home.
“Our priority is [to monitor] those returning to Indonesia. Once they are found [to have joined IS] we will name them suspects,” Tito says.
According to Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Tito says the arrests and deaths of suspected terrorists more than doubled in Indonesia this year to 170.
He attributes this to IS spreading its wings abroad as it comes under greater pressure in Syria and Iraq.
“It’s because of the dynamics within IS in Syria and Iraq. To divert attention, their networks overseas were being told (to attack),” he is quoted saying.
The trend will continue next year as long as the IS exists, he says, but adds that this will not only be true for Indonesia, “but the whole world”.
Jakarta Post reports that some 600 Indonesians are believed to have traveled to Syria so far to fight in the jihad.
On fake news, Tito says they could become greater threats in 2017 but the police will work to stave off the possibility. He says the government is working on a mechanism that will involve concerted effort from all relevant agencies to deal with the threat.
“Tomorrow, the president will hold a meeting on how to integrate all ministries and agencies to crack down on provocations on social media.”
One example of fake news cited is the spread of a false rumour that millions of Chinese workers had arrived in Indonesia.
President Joko Widodo or Jokowi, already facing accusations of being a puppet of the Chinese, was forced to intervene last week by denying the claims.
According to Tribunnews, Jokowi said that there are merely 21,000 legally registered Chinese workers in Indonesia and not 20 or 30 million, as suggested by rumour mongers.
“It is a tiny figure. Don’t add so many zeroes,” he said.
But national police spokesman Insp Gen Boy Rafli Amar says the incident was enough to damage government reputation.
“The people will say ‘oh the government has been doing this and that’ while in fact it is not true,” he says in Jakarta Post.