Jakarta. A terrorist group active in North Sumatra is planning to recruit foreign fighters to assist their operations in Indonesia, according to National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri.
At a media conference at the National Police headquarters in Jakarta on Friday, Bambang said plans had been uncovered detailing attempts to enlist fundamentalist mujahadeen from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Last week, police antiterror officers conducted raids near Medan and Tanjung Balai, 200 kilometers southeast of the provincial capital, that killed three suspects and wounded four. Twelve others were arrested.
On Wednesday, in apparent retaliation for the raids, three officers were killed when a subdistrict police station near Medan was attacked.
Bambang said the raids were connected to investigations into several armed robberies across North Sumatra, including a bank robbery in Medan on Aug. 18 in which a security guard was killed. He said the crime spree was part of the terrorist group’s efforts to raise funds to finance their mission.
Money from the robberies would also pay for bringing in the foreign mujahadeen, he added.
According to Bambang, the group, which had held paramilitary training in a remote forest in Aceh until their camp was broken up by police in February, was now also trying to carry out assassinations of public officials, police officers and soldiers to spread instability, with the end aim of establishing an Islamic caliphate in the region.
During the media conference, Bambang also dismissed speculation that the police’s elite Densus 88 antiterrorism squad was being investigated for human rights violations.
This month, Densus 88 was accused by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International of torturing separatists in Maluku, and has again come under question with the deaths of the three suspects in the latest raids in North Sumatra.
Bambang attempted to justify the deaths of the suspects by saying terrorists would never surrender and preferred to fight to the death. “They are always looking for death rather than being captured alive because they believe they will go to heaven if they are shot dead by police,” he said.
“Please understand that our officers, particularly those of Densus 88, have never violated human rights in the course of their duty.”
He said that since counterterrorism operations were launched in 2000, only 44 terrorist suspects had been gunned down, with 563 more having been brought to trial.
The police chief also hailed the establishment last month of the National Anti-Terrorism Agency (BNPT), saying the war against terror was the responsibility of all, not just the police.