Indonesian Jihadists Embrace Small Cells and Targeted Attacks

By Matthew Harwood

And small cells also get help from the Web, where they can go online and find do-it-yourself manuals devoted to military training and bomb-making, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s Webzine, Inspire.

Much like other jihadi terrorists, the ICG finds that these small groups of self-starter terrorists cannot be socio-economically profiled. “Poverty was not what drove them to radical action, but rather ideas, as propounded by persuasive jihadi clerics,” the report notes.

The ICG advises that Indonesia’s newly created National Anti-Terrorism Agency should make community outreach, charting ideological evolution, countering extremist messages, and better prison and post-prison monitoring of militants priorities.

As part of community outreach, the conflict prevention group says counterterrorism authorities should concentrate on youth programs and play up former militants sorrow for waging jihad and bringing shame upon their families to steer other youths away from violent jihad. ICG also notes that concerned adults need to keep an eye on Islamic high school student organizations, which have been used by hardliners to radicalize teenagers.

The ICG stresses that reducing the allure of jihad cannot be accomplished through a law-and-order approach.

“[T]he government needs to recognise that laws are not a panacea,” the report concludes. “This is not a problem that can be fixed by a new intelligence law or a strengthened anti-terrorism law. The effort has to start in communities, by reducing the receptivity to extremist messages, finding alternative activities and role models for young men in their twenties in certain targeted areas, and showing that other approaches produce concrete benefits.”

Most of all, the ICG urges the government to quickly respond to the new threat of small jihadi cells committing smaller, targeted violent attacks. “With jihad fardiyah... being promoted so strongly in radical circles, there inevitably are more plots in the works.”

♦ Photo of Indonesian flag by Mr. T in DC/Flickr


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