Jakarta Attacks Jolt Indonesia to Toughen Its Counterterrorism Campaign

Jakarta Attacks Jolt Indonesia to Toughen Its Counterterrorism Campaign
Indonesian police officers near a Starbucks cafe where suicide bombers blew themselves up, Jakarta, Jan. 16, 2016 (AP photo by Dita Alangkara).

On the morning of Jan. 14, a series of explosions and gunfire rocked the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, killing eight people and injuring dozens. The attacks, which were claimed by affiliates of the self-described Islamic State, have led the government of President Joko Widodo, popularly known as Jokowi, to ramp up counterterrorism efforts across Indonesia.

While the Jakarta attacks made headlines all over the world, Indonesian authorities and experts have long noted the rising terrorism threat in the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Several groups have been operating in the country, including one based in central Java with ties to the Islamic State and another in the port of Poso, known as the Mujahidin of Eastern Indonesia or the Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT), which is led by Santoso, the country’s most wanted terrorist. Indonesia has been trying to contain the growing threat from these groups, with several plots successfully foiled at home in 2015 and agreements reached with key countries to strengthen intelligence-sharing. Indeed, in December, with the help of the United States, Singapore and Australia, authorities arrested a dozen men across Java suspected of planning attacks over the holidays.

But the violence in Jakarta last month has jolted Indonesia into taking much tougher measures on counterterrorism. First, authorities have stepped up an already ongoing crackdown on militants in the country. Security forces moved swiftly after the attacks with a string of arrests in Java and Kalimantan. They also blocked websites expressing support for the Jakarta attacks.

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