Indonesia: Front Lines against Radical Islam

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BANDA ACEH, Indonesia -- Some of the most dangerous international terrorist networks are using Indonesia as a base to recruit, plan, and train for attacks on Western targets.

The Indonesian government is launching several security operations aimed at crippling the terror activity. But as CBN News discovered, the fight against radical Islamists is far from over.

Some 1,000 miles from the capital of Jakarta lies the city of Banda Aceh. This city, located on the northwestern tip of the country, was almost wiped off the map during the 2004 Indonesian tsunami.

Six years later, Banda Aceh has bounced back. It's like a brand new city: The economy is thriving, tourism is up, and foreign investments are pouring in at a substantial rate.

Radical Infiltration

But then came the shocking discovery that a group of Muslim radicals had also moved into the area since the tsunami, setting up a base of operations.

"There were radical groups that came in the name of doing disaster relief and some of those were able to set up bases which became conduits that later helped jihadi groups set up shop," explained Sidney Jones, an American terrorism expert living in Indonesia.

One of those groups is known as al Qaeda in Aceh. The group has its own training and recruitment video.

"I appeal to you to join us, by jihad in the way of Allah. Jihad not with a pen. Jihad not with sarong and cap, but with weapons. Hopefully God will give great glory to you," an Al Qaeda commander can be heard saying on the video.

More than a dozen men were planning to assassinate people who were against implementing Islamic, or sharia, law.

"They were conducting military exercises, practicing how to use weapons and combat training. It was all done in preparation for planning to commit an act of terror," said Edward Aritonany, a general in the Indonesian police force.

Authorities raided the terrorist hideout, killing two and arresting several alleged suspects.

Indonesia's War on Terror

Their deaths were the latest in a campaign that began Feb. 22 when police raided a secret military training camp in a remote jungle not too far from the Indonesian capital.

A few days later, on the outskirts of Jakarta, police killed one of the most widely sought terror suspects.

Dulmatin, 39, was the key operations man behind the 2002 attacks in Bali, Indonesia. More than 200 people were killed in the attack, most of them foreigners.

Dulmatin was trained by Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

"He had outstanding capabilities," said Bambang Hendarso Danuri, an Indonesian police chief.

His capture led to the arrest of several other prominent suspects. Officials in the U.S. have praised Indonesia's counterterrorism efforts.

Those efforts were on display earlier this year during drills simulating terror attacks on several prominent sites in the capital. The Indonesian president has vowed to stay on the offensive.

"We were able to disrupt terrorist cells operating and training in Aceh and in other places in Indonesia," Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said. "We will continue to hunt them down and do all we can to prevent them from harming our people."

Terror Threat Still High

Despite the huge successes, security experts say that the threat is far from over.

"Once Dulmatin is dead, it doesn't mean there's an end to terrorism," Jones warned. "We are not dealing with a movement where one or two individuals make a complete difference between life and death of a terrorist movement."

She points to the group al Qaeda in Aceh as proof that Indonesia can't afford to grow complacent. Authorities were surprised to discover them operating in the jungles.

Jones reports how corruption is one of the key factors that keep terrorists in business. For example, in the case of the terrorists in Aceh, a police officer was involved in supplying them with weapons. In another case, a top terror financier obtained a fake passport from the country's immigration office.

Muslims Terrorizing Muslims

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population. Most Muslims in the Asian country practice a moderate brand of Islam. But in recent years, Islamic terrorists have carried out a string of suicide bombings, in an effort to peddle a violent and anti-Western ideology.

"The government has done a good job dealing with such people, but they must do more to stop others from joining these groups," a Jakarta resident told CBN News.

President Obama will use his visit to area to strengthen U.S.-Indonesia cooperation on counterterrorism. He will also try to enlist the help of Muslims to join America in the global fight against Islamic extremism.

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CBN News
George Thomas

George Thomas

CBN News Sr. Reporter

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