Indonesian authorities announced on Saturday that they had detained at least 27 individuals suspected of having connections with prohibited extremist organizations. This nationwide crackdown comes as the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation prepares for the 2024 elections. The arrests were carried out on Friday by the elite counterterrorism unit, known as Densus 88, in various locations including the capital, Jakarta, as well as West Java and Central Sulawesi provinces, as stated by National Police spokesperson Ahmad Ramadhan.
“We are still investigating and interrogating all those arrested in search of other possible suspects” noted Aswin Siregar, the spokesperson for Densus 88. He also stated that the majority of those apprehended are believed to have ties with a domestic extremist organization associated with the Islamic State (IS) known as Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, or JAD.
These arrests followed the questioning of 18 suspected militants who were detained starting from October 2, as stated by Ramadhan. While certain local media reports suggested a connection between those arrested and an alleged plan to carry out militant attacks aimed at disrupting the February 2024 elections, Ramadhan swiftly downplayed these claims.
In 2018, Jemaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD) was banned by a court. The group has significantly weakened due to a sustained crackdown on militants by Densus 88. The United States designated JAD as a terrorist group in 2017.
JAD was responsible for various deadly suicide bombings in Indonesia, including a lethal attack in Jakarta in 2016 that claimed eight lives, as well as a series of suicide bombings in 2018 in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city. These attacks included two families, including girls aged 9 and 12, who carried out suicide bombings at churches and a police station, resulting in the deaths of 13 people.
Indonesia is scheduled to hold simultaneous legislative and presidential elections on February 14 next year. Following the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali that resulted in the deaths of 202 people, predominantly Western and Asian tourists, Indonesia launched a crackdown on militants. In recent years, militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced by smaller, less deadly strikes, primarily targeting government institutions, especially the police and anti-terrorism forces.