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Analysis of the month: assessing the attempted assassination of Indonesia’s Security minister

By the Risk&Co Group’s “Strategic Intelligence” analysts:

Indonesia’s Security Minister, Mr WIRANTO, was stabbed during a visit organised in the city of Pandeglang, in the Banten province, on Java island. The 72-year-old senior official was severely wounded while he was getting out of his car, greeting people after a visit of the Mathla’ul Anwar university.

This assault constitutes an unprecedented attack on one of the most powerful men in the country. As Minister of Security, Mr WIRANTO is in charge of five ministries, including Foreign Affairs, Interior and Defence.

The attacker and an alleged accomplice have been arrested and taken into police custody. The suspects were identified as a married couple. Besides the Minister, an assistant, a police officer and a university employee were also injured.

The Minister was quickly transferred to the Gatot Subroto Army Hospital (RSPAD) in Jakarta. According to the hospital spokesman, he suffered “two deep wounds” to his stomach but he is conscious and in a stable condition, just like the three other victims.

The attack took place a week prior to the inauguration ceremony of President Joko WIDODO, re-elected in April for a second term as head of the world’s largest Muslim country. Over the past weeks, Indonesian services had already uncovered several attempts by the Islamist extremist movement Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD, linked to the Islamic State group – IS) to disrupt the inauguration of the second term of a president who is “Muslim but largely secular in his vision”.

Later that day, Mr Budi GUNAWAN, head of the National Intelligence Agency, confirmed that the apprehended suspects belonged to the JAD.

It is not the JAD’s first attempt. Founded in 2015, the organisation gained notoriety in January 2016 by carrying out a deadly suicide attack in Jakarta, killing four civilians and injuring four others.

According to the US State Department, which qualified the JAD in January 2017 of “a Specially Designated Global Terrorist”, it is composed of nearly 20 Indonesian extremist groups that have all sworn allegiance to IS’s leader. The spiritual leader of the group is Aman ABDURRAHMAN, an imprisoned Indonesian radical, who authorixed the attack on Jakarta and is considered to be the actual leader of all IS supporters in Indonesia.

Although it is considered as Indonesia’s largest pro-Islamic state formation, the JAD’s structure and its links with the international terrorist network remains unclear. The Asian jihadists’ oaths of allegiance were not followed by any financial flows or influx of fighters from IS, as the core of the organisation struggle to keep hold on its own territory, in the Levant.

The virtual disappearance of IS as a political entity further downsizes the fears of seeing an Islamist terrorist hydra emerge in Southeast Asia. The activities of these small groups seem more proselytism-oriented than operational, and serve as a lever for increasing the visibility local groups, rather than demonstrating the existence of an organised structure at the national level.

JAD’s resurgence is most likely linked to the Indonesian political agenda, but could also be partly explained by the evolution of IS, since it has been military defeated in the Levant. Western intelligence services are worried that jihadists will spread throughout the world, from the Arabian Peninsula to the Sahel and Southeast Asia. The recent developments in the Idleb province, in Syria, where a last “bastion” of jihadists is standing, are fostering these fears.

The JAD could benefit from the arrival of these experienced fighters, who survived the harsh battles in the Levant, and who could now be coming to Indonesia and to the South of the Philippines (Mindanao).

In this context a campaign of attacks of a higher profile than the operations carried out by JAD so far could be the next step (choosing the Indonesian Minister of Security probably reflects these renewed “ambitions”).

Any evidence, even weak, supporting the hypothesis that JAD represents an increasing threat, should be carefully observed and processed in the coming months.

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