Budi Sutrisno and Fadli, Jakarta and Batam – The National Police's counterterrorism squad, Densus 88, has arrested dozens of people across Indonesia in recent months amid concerns about intensifying terrorist propaganda during the coronavirus pandemic.
Densus 88 recently apprehended six terrorism suspects believed to be affiliated with various terrorist groups, including Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), Adira and Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), in separate raids in Lampung, West Sumatra and Riau Islands.
"The Densus 88 antiterror team made a preventive move on Friday and Saturday and arrested several [members] of the terrorist groups," National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Awi Setiyono said in a statement on Sunday.
The suspects arrested in Lampung were identified as SA, 35, a welding workshop owner; RK, 34, a private-sector employee; as well as S, 45, and I, 44, both traders.
Meanwhile, AD, a 39-year-old driver, was arrested in West Sumatra, and MA, a self-employed 34-year old, was nabbed in Batam, Riau Islands.
Riau Islands Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Harry Goldenhardt told The Jakarta Post on Monday that MA had been arrested at the entrance to a residential area in Kabil, Batam, far from his place of residence.
It was the second arrest on terrorism charges in Batam this year following that of a 16-year-old JAD member on May 20.
On Oct. 4, Densus 88 arrested four suspected terrorists in separate areas of Bekasi, West Java, one of whom participated in outdoor training for the Adira group in 2012.
Police provided no information as to whether the arrest in Bekasi last month was related to recent raids in Lampung, Sumatra.
Based on police records, at least 72 terrorism suspects were arrested in counterterrorism operations across the nation from June 1 to Aug. 12.
On Aug. 12, police had arrested at least 15 suspected terrorists in Jakarta and West Java with alleged ties to the JAD and another terrorist group, Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT), Awi further said.
A day before that, Densus 88 arrested five suspected terrorists with alleged ties to the JAD in Kampar regency, Riau.
Twelve of the 15 people, Awi said, were believed to be from the JAD Koswara group that allegedly funded and facilitated the departure of Indonesians to Syria to join terrorists groups there.
Terrorist groups had taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to spread their narratives, recruit new members and raise funds, National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chairman Comr. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said.
"While many countries have closed their borders and restricted movement, terrorist groups are not standing still," Boy said during the 16th APEC Counterterrorism Working Group (CTWG) meeting on Oct. 22, as quoted by kompas.com.
He argued that the pandemic had increased the threat of terrorism as it opened opportunities for terrorist groups to spread propaganda through cyberspace, targeting captive audiences at home.
Moreover, terrorist groups also took advantage of the pandemic to carry out activities under humanitarian pretenses, he went on to say.
A long-term risk that might arise, Boy said, was the erosion of state capacity for counterterrorism activities as economic power was declining.