Muslim Indonesia again reminded that it is not immune to terrorism

A police officer stands with his weapon drawn in front of a purple shoe and other ruble from the blast.

Around the corner several police officers stand behind their vehicle, keeping out of the line of fire.

Motionless in the road lies another officer.

Terrorism has returned to the metropolis of Jakarta, capital of the country with the largest Muslim population in the world.

The last extremist attack in Jakarta came in 2009, claiming the lives of seven people. Since then the population believed they had got rid of extremists. Now they are in shock.

"Our nation and our people should not be afraid, we will not be defeated by these acts of terror," President Joko Widodo said on television.

Thursday's bomb went off in Jalan Thamrin, the heart of the city, the shopping and business district with its high-rise office buildings. This is also where the major international hotels are located, as well as many embassies and well-known international brands like McDonalds and Starbucks.

Indonesians know all about about terrorism a certain type of terrorism. The militant Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah grew in strength after the Suharto dictatorship was forced out.

They often targeted foreigners.

In 2002, 202 people died on Bali Island, many of them Australian tourists, and in 2009 seven people - including several Westerners - died in attacks on hotels.

Indonesia's Australian-trained Detachment 88 unit, regarded as a leading example of effective counter-terrorism operations, has made numerous arrests in recent years.

But the situation has changed, Todd Elliot, expert on terrorism at Concord Consulting in Jakarta, told the BBC. Declining to speculate on who is behind Thursday's attacks, he said the country is now facing radicalized individuals rather than organized groups.

The authorities estimate that the number of Indonesian citizens fighting with terrorist militia Islamic State in Syria and Iraq total around 500 - a modest figure considering the country's population of some 255 million. Belgium is said to have supplied just as many out of a population of 11 million.

One of the Indonesian fighters is Bahrun Naim, who has been attempting to recruit fellow Indonesians though social media, according to Sydney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta.

Naim admires the November terrorist attacks in Paris. "He urged his Indonesian audience to study the planning, targeting, timing, coordination, security and courage of the Paris teams," Jones wrote in a report.

"His readers aren't fellow fighters in Syria, they're too busy. He's writing for the terrorist wannabes on Java. ... Islamic State has succeeded in building a network of supporters in the suburbs of Jakarta," she said.

And it's this dissemination of radical ideologies that political scientist Adri Wanto believes that Indonesia has for too long turned a blind eye to.

One of those allowed to conduct radicalizing activities up until 2011 was Abu Bakar Bashir. He was finally sentenced to 15 years in jail after being convicted in June that year of supporting a jihadi training camp.

Wanto, of the RSIS school of international studies in Singapore, believes that there is only one way to counter this sort of radical ideology - that is by offering a programme to inculcate a better understanding of peaceful Islamic principles.

Last update: Thu, 14/01/2016 - 15:18
Author: 

More from World

NYC mayor: residents shouldn't have to pay for Trump's security

Residents of New York City shouldn't have to foot the bill for added security around the residence of president-...

Four die of the plague in Madagascar

Four people have died from the plague in Madagascar, the Health Ministry announced Wednesday.

Top NATO officer: 150 Turkish officers recalled, retired after coup

About 150 Turkish officers, some responsible for training others, were recalled or retired from NATO high command in...

Erdogan says era of trade in local currencies set to begin

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan backed up his ambitions for the lira Wednesday, saying the era of local...

West demands a ceasefire in Aleppo as Russia seeks rebel surrender

Six Western powers demanded Wednesday an "immediate ceasefire" to bring aid into rebel-held Aleppo, warning "a...