Banda Aceh. A security analyst on Monday questioned claims that four men recently arrested in Aceh were linked to the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah.
“Calling them terrorists linked to JI would be premature because there is no evidence that we know of that leads to that accusation, for example documentation or other proof that backs up such suspicions,” Teuku Ardiansyah, a security analyst from the Katahati Institute in Aceh, told the Jakarta Globe on Monday.
Police in Aceh last week arrested four men in the mountainous region of Jalin Jantho in Aceh Besar district after police uncovered a paramilitary training camp in the area.
Ardiansyah said details on the armed group remained unclear, and that police had yet to make a statement about the group’s objectives or demands.
“That there was an armed group conducting paramilitary training is not the same as them being terrorists,” he said.
“That is why the police have to provide more proof that the group is really linked to a regional terrorist network.”
Ardiansyah acknowledged that JI had found its way to Aceh some time ago, “but they did not get many followers because they did not see eye to eye with GAM [the Free Aceh Movement].”
“Jemaah Islamiyah itself is now splintered and scattered due to continuing antiterrorist operations in many countries, including in Indonesia,” he added.
Ardiansyah said that while Islamist groups existed in Aceh, care needed to be taken in labeling them terrorists. “There are still many pieces of the puzzle missing before one can conclude that they are terrorists,” he said.
He said the evidence presented in the Jalin Jantho case was insufficient to draw any conclusions. “They found hard-line documents and books that should not be seen as evidence,” he said. “I also have such books in my house.”
Aceh Police Chief Insp. Gen. Aditya Warman said as many as 50 members of the Jalin Jantho group were still being sought in Aceh Besar.
Following the arrests last week, police have intensified their operations against the group. The National Police have sent antiterrorism officials to Aceh to support local officers and Mobile Brigade (Brimob) personnel.
The large-scale police operation was still in full swing on Monday, with officers scouring remote rural areas in and around the Jalin Mountains.
Police recently arrested 10 more people and seized a number of DVDs and books on jihad, binoculars, bayonets, four machine guns, a pistol, thousands of rounds of ammunition and smoke grenades.
Aceh Deputy Governor Muhammad Nazar said it was important for police to determine whether those arrested had links to terrorists because it could affect investor confidence in the province and scare away much-needed reconstruction funds.
“If they are wrong, a very harmful stigma will be attached to Aceh, one that will affect our economic development,” he said.
“Historically, Aceh has never associated itself with extremism. The conflicts that have affected Aceh have had nothing to do with religion,” Nazar added.