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ICG Report – Jihadi Surprise in Aceh

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Indonesia: Jihadi Surprise in Aceh

As revelations about a jihadi coalition calling itself “Al Qaeda Indonesia in Aceh” continue to emerge, the Indonesian government should take steps to tighten control over prisons, provide more training for police in confronting armed suspects and consider banning paramilitary training by non-state actors.

Indonesia: Jihadi Surprise in Aceh, the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines a new stream of jihadism in Indonesia that the coalition represents and its significance for the future of terrorism in the region.

“This group defined itself in opposition to the other two main streams of Indonesian jihadism”, says Sidney Jones, Crisis Group Asia Program Senior Adviser. “It was angry with Jemaah Islamiyah for abandoning jihad and critical of the late Noordin Top for having no long-term strategy.”

With 48 men arrested since late February, eight killed in police raids, and about fifteen others identified and being sought, the new group seems to have been crushed for now, but the groups that formed the coalition still exist, and new alignments or mutations are likely.

The report examines how and why the group made the colossal blunder of choosing Aceh as its “secure base”, where an Islamic community would be established through a combination of religious outreach and jihad against anyone who stood in the way. Its leaders, including the fugitive Bali bomber Dulmatin, killed in a 9 March raid, were persuaded that many of Aceh’s religious leaders would be supportive, but their ultra-puritan, anti-Western rhetoric of violence drew little sympathy in an area recovering from three decades of conflict.

The Indonesian government can learn several lessons from the discovery of the group:

> intelligence on extremist groups remains weak;
> monitoring of prisons, prisoners and ex-prisoners needs improvement (at least twelve of those arrested, killed or wanted are ex-prisoners);
> police need more training in use of non-lethal methods of capturing “active shooters”; and
> corruption remains the lubricant for terrorist activities, with forged documents easily available for a price.

“Rolling up this network is no mean feat and the Indonesian police, at both local and national levels, deserve credit for their fast work”, says Jim Della-Giacoma, Crisis Group’s South East Asia Project Director. “But no one should be complacent that the job is over.”


About Muhammad Haniff Hassan

Muhammad Haniff Bin Hassan is a Fellow. He holds a PhD and M.Sc. in Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (previously known as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies), Nanyang Technological University. He received his early education in Aljunied Islamic School. He then continued his tertiary education at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, National University of Malaysia, with honours in Syar`iah and Civil law. Mr. Haniff is also active in social activities as a member of the Islamic Religious Council Appeal Board, HSBC Insurance Islamic Advisory Board from 2000 to 2014, Association of Islamic Religious Teachers and Scholars of Singapore (PERGAS) and Management Committee of Al-Irsyad Islamic School. He writes extensively in Berita Harian (a local Malay newspaper) and has also published articles in The Straits Times. He has published six books in his name, co-authored a monograph and helped publish two books for PERGAS and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore. His personal website in Malay is at


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