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Poso the new cradle for terrorism network

Jakarta Post - November 13, 2012

Bagus BT Saragih and Ruslan Sangadji, Jakarta – The police and military personnel combed Maros regency in South Sulawesi on Monday for two individuals implicated in an incident on Sunday that involved the throwing of a bomb, which failed to explode, at the province's governor, Syahrul Yasin Limpo.

During the search, explosive materials were found at Pamanjengan village in Maros, located on the outskirts of the province's capital Makassar.

It is alleged that the explosives, which were inside two cardboard boxes, had been left by two suspected terrorists after they fled the scene of a police raid near the village, Maros Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Hotman Sirait said.

The boxes contained 5 kilograms of potassium chloride, 3 kilograms of potassium nitrate, 2 kilograms of potassium, 100 grams of sodium, 20 batteries, 20 integrated circuits, 20 on/off buttons and a switcher.

The police arrested Awaluddin Nasir, 25, for throwing the bomb at Syamsul while he was on stage attending a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the Golkar Party, in Makassar.

While the authorities continue to intensify their search, the police are investigating the possibility that Nasir and his friends are associated with the terrorist group behind a series of attacks last month in Poso regency, Central Sulawesi.

Over the past three months, the authorities have labeled Poso as the nation's hotbed of terrorism, which may be a cradle and training ground for extremists to launch violent jihad in other part of Indonesia – the world's largest Muslim majority country.

Poso regency, with a population of around 215,000, was plagued by bloody clashes between Christian and Muslim communities between 1997 and 2001, which claimed around 1,000 lives and displaced 25,000.

After a peace pact in 2001 that ended the conflict, extremists linked to the al-Qaeda affiliated Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), and its radical ideology, have been largely left undisturbed in the Christian-majority regency.

The extremists' network in Poso was actually weakened and fractured following the 2001 peace accord.

However, the government's failure to thoroughly root out radicalism, coupled with alleged police brutality in counterterrorism raids has reunited the Islamic fighters, boosting the spirit needed to radicalize traumatized residents.

Security personnel, amid concerns that a ravaged Poso would become a base for Islamic extremists to breed and launch attacks in other parts of the country, have been trying hard to prevent Poso from lapsing into another round of bloody conflict.

A reemergence of the conflict would incite Muslim extremists across the country to wage war against Christians.