Indonesian authorities beef up security- Hardline Muslim groups burn US and Israeli flags
JAKARTA: More than a dozen people have been arrested by Indonesian anti-terrorism police, authorities said yesterday, as they beef up security in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country ahead of the Christmas and New Year holidays. Police said they detained 13 suspected militants in separate, pre-emptive raids over the weekend across the Southeast Asian nation, which has long struggled with Islamic militancy. “As usual, we are conducting pre-emptive strikes. We move before they do and we arrest the groups we believe will potentially commit an act (of terror),” national police chief Tito Karnavian said yesterday.
The arrests took place in South Sumatra, East Java and West Kalimantan over the weekend. One of the men arrested in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-biggest city, was known to have gone to Syria in 2013 and has links to Abu Jandal, an influential Indonesian militant who fought with the Islamic State group in the Middle Eastern country, authorities said. Another suspect was involved in a February terror attack in the Indonesian city of Bandung, where a pressure cooker bomb exploded in a park before a gun battle erupted nearby, leaving one militant dead.
However, authorities have no specific information on a new planned attack, said national police spokesman Setyo Wasisto. “There’s no confirmed plan for a terror attack that we have heard so far,” he said. Indonesia’s anti-terror squad can detain and hold suspected extremists for seven days without charge. Indonesia has suffered a string of deadly incidents, including a Christmas Eve attack in 2000 that left 18 dead and scores injured. In 2002, a bomb in a Bali nightclub killed over 200 people while, more recently, a suicide bombing and gun attack claimed by IS in the capital Jakarta killed eight people in January 2016.
Hardliners burn US flags
Meanwhile, hardline Muslim groups in Indonesia burned photos of US President Donald Trump, as well as US and Israeli flags yesterday during a protest outside the US embassy against Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, has joined a global chorus of condemnation of Trump’s controversial move on Israel, which they say threatens security and stability in the Middle East and the world. The status of Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, is one of the thorniest barriers to a lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Jerusalem’s eastern sector was captured by Israel in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized internationally.
Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for the capital of an independent state that they seek, while Israel maintains that all of Jerusalem is its capital. Hundreds attended the protest outside the US embassy in Jakarta, which was barricaded by barbed wire and dozens of police officers. “Let us witness the destruction of Israel’s hegemony,” one protest leader shouted into a megaphone as protesters burned an Israeli flag. “We will support Palestine with our blood.”
Many protesters waved Palestinian flags and carried banners supporting “intifada”, or an uprising against Israel, and rally leaders also shouted anti-Semitic slogans. The protest was led by the Islamic Defenders Front, an aggressive vigilante group that calls for sharia, or Islamic religious law, to be imposed in Indonesia, a secular country. The demonstration followed a much larger protest at the weekend, where thousands called for diplomatic relations with the United States to be severed and for the US ambassador to be expelled. Indonesia supports a two-state solution in the Israel-Palestine conflict.- Agencies