Between 8 and 16 May 2018, Indonesia consistently made international headlines due to a dramatic increase in the number of terror attacks throughout the country. What started with a prison riot by convicted jihadists grew into a nine-day long series of incidents including knife stabbings, attacks with swords, vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) targeting churches, and suicide bombings. However, these attacks are unlikely to be the last violent attempts by jihadist militants within the country. On 6 June Indonesian police revealed that 96 people had been arrested or killed in anti-terror operations since the May attacks.
The timing and ferocity of the May attacks, which claimed at least 40 lives, are not coincidental. Although religiously motivated incidents occur in Indonesia, a significant contributing factor behind the recent attacks is the holy period of Ramadan. Since Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, at the time the spokesperson for the Islamic State (IS), launched calls for increased attacks during Ramadan 2015, a perceivable increase in terror-related incidents occurred in the region during the ninth Islamic month. IS’s interpretation of Ramadan, with orators of the organisation claiming those who conduct martyr attacks during the period receive greater rewards, influenced similar suicide and knife attacks during the same period in 2017.
The groups perpetrating these attacks within the country, such as Jamaah Anshorut Daulah, Jeemah Islamiyah or IS, all hold broadly aligned goals – notably overthrowing the democratically-elected government and creating a strict Islamic caliphate within the region. Since the start of the ongoing Syrian conflict in 2011, an estimated 600 Indonesian nationals travelled to either Syria or Iraq to take up arms on behalf of IS. However the significant erosion of IS-held territory in the aforementioned countries, and subsequent dispersal of fighters – with many returning to their homelands in Southeast Asia – are likely to bolster the Islamist presence in the region in the medium term.
A BLEAK OUTLOOK
This month’s incidents have proven that militants have both the intent and capability to launch fatal attacks. Further terror-related incidents, predominantly directed at civilians and state security forces, are likely in the short to medium term. On 4 June Indonesian police revealed they had arrested three individuals for allegedly plotting to kill lawmakers in Riau’s capital Pekanbaru. IS and its supporters will maintain calls to launch attacks as evidenced in the latest edition of the group’s regular newsletter al-Naba published on 25 May. These actions are likely to embolden small terrorist cells as well as lone wolves. Although lone wolf attacks can be conducted with reduced risk of detection by state security forces, they are, however, unlikely to be as high-impact as those conducted by groups or cells with the appropriate experience, resources and training.
HOW NYA CAN HELP
In response to the recent spate of attacks, the Indonesian parliament enacted counterterrorism legislation that enables the military to directly conduct operations within the country. These powers, provided that they are not misused or abused, can be effective in foiling terror plots but are unlikely to prevent all further attacks. Those planning on travelling to Indonesia or the wider region can speak to NYA about our Travel Risk Management services which help you to understand and mitigate against security threats. In addition to Crisis Response consultants, NYA maintains a dedicated team of consultants highly experienced in security and crisis management solutions across varied operating environments. Our extensive global network includes established trusted associates who can provide protective ground services in more than 150 countries around the world.
NYA is a highly specialist security risk and crisis management consultancy with 28 years’ experience of supporting clients who operate globally. NYA is retained by some of the world’s largest global ‘special risks’ and crisis management insurers. Through our insurance relationships we are one of the most active and expert security response consultancies in the world. This exposure provides us with a unique insight into the risks faced by our client’s travellers and we are able to use our experience to help our clients reduce their level of risk whilst travelling.