For more than a week, there has been a flurry of counter-terrorism raids across the country. This comes just ten days before President Barack Obama is set to make his first visit to Indonesia since spending part of his elementary school years in Jakarta.
Initially the police focused their attention on a 50-strong group of militants that was allegedly conducting paramilitary training at the foot of a mountain on the border of Pidie and Aceh Besar districts in Aceh province. As of this week, the police had killed or arrested nearly 20 persons tied to this group. They have also confiscated a small number of assault rifles, military uniforms purchased in Malaysia, and videotapes of various deceased Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members.
Although the police investigation in Aceh is ongoing, it would appear like several of the members were not ethnic Acehnese and could instead be traced to the island of Java. This is an interesting development, as the Acehnese have traditionally exhibited fierce animosity toward those from Java, and many have found it hard to believe that the two sides have now put aside their long-standing differences to conduct risky paramilitary training in a relatively populated area of Aceh. Others have noted that the Acehnese, while pious and prone toward separatism, have rarely shown any radical tendencies along the Wahhabist lines pushed by JI.
But the questions raised by all this pale in comparison to developments yesterday. After the Indonesian authorities earlier announced that some of the Aceh gang could be traced back to Banten province on Java, and specifically the area of Pamulang (which is just outside the Jakarta city limits), the police conducted a pair of raids in Pamulang. The Indonesian media has since been speculating that at least one of the dead is Dul Matin, a JI electronics expert linked to the 2002 Bali bombings. It had been thought that Dul Matin had been in the southern Philippines since at least 2003, where he had been given sanctuary by both the MILF and Abu Sayyaf Group. But the media is now speculating that he made his way into Indonesia and was hiding out in a Pamulang house owned by a medical doctor that he had befriended during the communal violence in Ambon during 1999. That Dul Matin would risk taking up shelter on the outskirts of Jakarta on face appears to be out of character for a terrorist known for his caution as much as his extremism. The police expect the result of a DNA test to confirm the identity of the corpse later today.