Indonesia's Islamic vigilantes 'turning to terrorism'

Indonesia's Islamic vigilantes 'turning to terrorism'

JAKARTA - Agence France-Presse
Indonesias Islamic vigilantes turning to terrorism

The regent's office is seen on fire in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara province January 26, 2012. REUTERS photo

Tolerance of Islamic vigilantism is helping to breed a new generation of terrorists in Indonesia, the International Crisis Group warned in a report Thursday.

The report criticised the government and police for lax law enforcement against hardliners, who often claim responsibility for violent anti-vice and sectarian attacks but regularly evade punishment.

"Indonesia: From Vigilantism to Terrorism in Cirebon" described how a group of poor uneducated men in the western Javanese town went from using sticks and stones in morality raids to using bombs and guns.

"What we saw in Cirebon was a a group of about 10 people who started out on a path to terrorism by participating in anti-vice campaigns," ICG analyst Sidney Jones told AFP.

"By using violence in these campaigns, they clearly violated the law but weren't punished." The group went from carrying out anti-vice attacks on TV stations and convenience stores selling alcohol to orchestrating suicide attacks on a police mosque and a church on Java island.

The attacks last year killed only the bombers themselves, but injured scores of others with nails, nuts and bolts spraying from homemade explosives.

"The government's saving grace is that the groups that have embarked on this path are poorly trained with very low capacity, but it won't always stay that way. One of these groups will get lucky and have a greater impact," Jones said.

The radicalisation of the Cirebon group was fuelled by weekly sermons where spiritual leaders encouraged the bloodshed of Islam's enemies, which have come to include the Indonesian government and police, the report said.

The threat of vigilantes turning to terrorism follows an effective decade-long crackdown on the country's most notorious networks, such as the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, it added.

Indonesia's police anti-terror unit, Detachment 88, has in recent years killed some of its most-wanted militants, including Noordin Top, believed to have played a role in every major terrorist attack in the country's recent history.

The unit also killed Dulmatin, who had a hand in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.