Posts made in January, 2018

The Maluku Civil War: Laskar Jihad Disbands

Posted by on Jan 28, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Maluku Civil War: Laskar Jihad Disbands

After the September 11, 2001 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks in the U.S., Indonesian militant groups came under an international spotlight, especially Laskar Jihad because of its high profile. [1] Ja’far Umar Thalib was a self-promoter. His Saudi and Yemeni mentors had endorsed a jihad to defend Maluku Muslims, but not an offensive against non-Muslims. Even though the Salafi movement opposed terror tactics, Ja’far gloated about the World Trade Center attack. Intelligence agencies and the media labeled Laskar Jihad a terrorist group. President Megawati Sukarnoputri faced pressure to show her commitment to the American-led “Global War on Terror.” In office for just a month, she was the first head of state to visit U.S. President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks. When she returned to Jakarta, the government arrested several Jemaah Islamiyah militants, and detained and interrogated about a dozen Laskar Jihad fighters, sending alarms through the rank and file. Ja’far admitted meeting Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan but claimed he had refused money and weapons offered by his emissaries. He declared bin Laden was “ignorant of proper Islam,” having deviated from the true faith through his rebellion against the legitimate government in Saudi Arabia. In an attempt to defuse negative publicity, he appeared in several public discussions with other Muslim leaders, including an Islam-West Dialogue attended by the British and American Ambassadors. Those actions were too much for Ja’far’s subordinates, who angrily criticized him. In another blunder, during January 2002 Ja’far sent several hundred Maluku veterans to Ngawi, East Java to attack gambling dens and entertainment centers controlled by a local representative from Megawati’s Indonesian Democratic Party- Struggle (PDI-P). About a dozen persons were killed on each side in fighting between the PDI-P security force and Laskar Jihad. Police arrested several dozen militants, later convicted and imprisoned. Some blamed Ja’far for failing to secure their release. Ja’far and his jihad troops had clearly exceeded their mandate by attacking Maluku Christians. The Laskar Jihad Commander arrogantly strutted before the media and participated in public forums, things forbidden by Salafi doctrine. “As players in a drama, Laskar Jihad volunteers acted intentionally to capture public notice. They enjoyed the coverage in the media, including television, radio, newspapers, bulletins, and magazines, although their Salafi doctrine should have prevented them from doing so. They warmly welcomed reporters from the media who used the event (and at times sensationalized it) to sell their publications.” [2] Authorities arrested Ja’far in early-May 2002 but freed him on his own recognizance a few weeks later, awaiting trial for subversion and inciting violence. In late-September, Ja’far’s Yemeni mentor, Syaikh Muqbil, issued a fatwa directing Laskar Jihad to disband. He maintained Ja’far and his movement had diverged from the true Salafi path by conducting a “heretical political jihad.” Ja’far angrily walked out of the October 7, 2002 Forum Komunikasi Ahlus Sunnah wal-Jama’ah (Forum for Followers of the Prophet’s Teachings and Community, FKAWJ) advisory board meeting when he learned its purpose was to dissolve Laskar Jihad and continued to resist the decision until the October 12 suicide attacks in Bali. Five days after the Bali bombings, Ja’far called a press...

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The Maluku Civil War: Peace at Last

Posted by on Jan 8, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Maluku Civil War: Peace at Last

A series of developments – Megawati Sukarnoputri’s ascent to the presidency in July 2001, the February 2002 Malino II peace accord, the arrests of Maluku Sovereignty Front (FKM) leader Alex Manuputty in April and Laskar Jihad Commander Ja’far Umar Thalib in early-May, General Endriartono Sutarto’s promotion to Armed Forces Commander in June and General Ryamizard Ryacudu’s move to Army Chief – signaled a major change in the resolve to deal with the thirty-month Maluku civil war. As Army Chief, Sutarto had criticized police ineffectiveness and advocated martial law to give the military the lead role in the troubled province. His ally, Army Strategic Reserve (Kostrad) Commander Ryamizard – son to a Sukarno-era general and son-in-law to General Try Sutrisno – favored a tough approach to discipline and professionalism. With belligerent cleric Abdurrahman Wahid out of the way and a more accommodating Megawati at the Palace, Sutarto and Ryamizard abandoned the subversive games General Wiranto and friends had played. The two “security-first” generals vowed to end the Maluku conflict. In return, Megawati agreed to make the Army responsible for security operations and gave Sutarto a green light for more aggressive actions in Aceh – something the Army had long sought. Coordinating Minister Lieutenant General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was a key player in brokering the accommodation between Sutarto and Megawati. With disruptions to the Malino II agreement and the embarrassing May 13, 2002 Kudamati shootout in Ambon, General Sutarto (by then nominated to become Armed Forces Commander) and Yudhoyono convinced Megawati to approve a new Maluku joint operations command, awkwardly named the Security Restoration Operations Command (Komando Operasi Pemulihan Keamanan, Koopslihkam), under an army major general with a police one-star deputy. Sutarto immediately stood up the new command and bolstered it with fresh Kostrad units. He selected Kostrad Division 2 Commander Major General Djoko Santoso (photo inset), a charismatic Javanese officer with a solid reputation and extensive Kostrad experience, as Koopslihkam Commander and successor to Maluku Pattimura Commander Brigadier General Mustopo. Djoko Santoso became the sixth Maluku Commander since the conflict started in January 1999. [1] Unlike his predecessors, Djoko Santoso had backing from the President, the Armed Forces Commander and the Army Chief. Before the transfer of command, Ryamizard and Santoso visited units in Maluku. In meetings with soldiers, they emphasized the need for professionalism, discipline and neutrality, threatening severe consequences for misconduct. Santoso launched an aggressive effort to round up deserters. Ryamizard advocated shooting any who resisted. The new commander implemented a focused strategy that was effective in restoring peace. More importantly, military leaders severed ties to the jihad groups. Fresh troops, including two Kostrad quick reaction (Pasukan Pumukul Reaksi Cepat, PPRC) battalions, replaced “contaminated” units. Soldiers were rotated more frequently, after just four to six months on the ground, instead of the usual eight to twelve month tours. New policies limited exposure to local communities. Troops were forbidden to attend local religious services. Security forces initiated coordinated sweeping operations; Christian and Muslim roadblocks were removed; curfew was enforced. Major General Santoso court-martialed several soldiers. In July 2002, a military court sentenced an army private with ties to the...

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