Being Oppressed, Santoso’s Group Surrender
The joint operation team comprising military and police personnel in capturing the group of Santoso alias Abu Wardah has been performing successfully. Since the establishment in January 2016, as many as 16 followers of East Indonesia Mujahidin have been captured by the Tinombala Operations Task Force, either alive or died in the crossfire. Tinombala Operations Task Force of 2016 is a combination of various military and police elites, namely Kopassus, Marines, Den Jaka, Raiders, Taipur, Brimob and other supporting units, with the composition of 1,800 soldiers and 1,200 personnel of police. Tinombala operation also involves four resorts polices, such as Poso, Parigi, Touna, and Morowali Resort Police.
A Glance of East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT)
A horizontal religious conflict between Muslims and Christians community once occurred in Poso in December 1998. This communal conflict spawned a sense of Muslim solidarity from other areas to help Muslims in Poso. After the conflict, some groups remain in Poso until the Law Enforcement was run in 2006. Following the law enforcement, a group called East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) was formed in 2008, an Islamic militant group which is considered as a group of suspected terrorists by the security forces. MIT group has a relationship with an international network based on the MIT’s allegiance to the Islamic State or ISIS declared in the first of Ramadan 1435 H whose video was uploaded on Youtube on April 30, 2014. Santoso Asy Syarqy Al Indunisy alias Abu Wardah pledged the allegiance of East Indonesia Mujahidin to Islamic State and to the Commander Amirul Mukminin Abu Bakar al-Husainy al-Qurasy al-Baghdady, the amir of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Santoso alias Abu Wardah is a Javanese, not a Poso citizen. MIT group is the successor of old groups of Abu Umar and Noordin M Top network. The role of Santoso in this group is to be a leader and instructor in paramilitary training in several areas, including training of Farhan group at the trekking area of Mount Merbabu in Central Java. MIT group is now a central network of the terrorist movement in Indonesia. Almost all alleged terrorist movements are now supporting network of MIT. Beside in Poso, the MIT also spreads in Java, Sumatra, and West Nusa Tenggara. MIT group now takes over the control of the struggle that was previously dominated by Solo network.
According to Nasir Abas (an observer of radicalism), East Indonesia Mujahidin led by Santoso has pledged allegiance to ISIS. Moreover, there are many outsiders who are not members of this group finally decide to join MIT to support ISIS. The support form of this group is to agree to fight with ISIS. Many members of the group want to go to Syria to provide direct support and connect with ISIS via the internet. Indonesian group members also conduct direct execution as in Poso.
Since the Operation of Tinombala began on January 9, 2016, a number of arrests and discovery of evidence has been successfully carried out. In addition, members of the MIT group are also increasingly pressured in an area of Pegunungan Biru that lies from Poso to Palu, Central Sulawesi, due to a shortage of food supply. This good progress is due to the synergy and cohesiveness of the personnel involved in Tinombala Operation.
The Santoso group who can’t stand living in the woods start to give up. On 22 April 2016, Irfan Maulana alias Akil surrendered to the post of Tinombala operation at Dusun Tamanjeka, Desa Masani, Poso Pesisir, Poso. Before he surrendered, he met his wife and parents in law in Tamanjeka. The personnel of Tinombala operation task force picked him up at night to avoid the massive attention from society. Irfan Maulana alias Akil was brought to the post of Tinombala on Pulau Roti Gebangrejo street, Poso Kota, Poso. In addition to Irfan Maulana alias Akil, Ibadurrahman alias Ibad alias Amru dan Muhammad Sulaeman alias Sul alias Ifan was arrested on 15 April 2016. Until today, the members of MIT remains 26 people comprising 23 men and 3 women.
Other than surrender and arrest, in the mid of March 2016, Tinombala task force personnel had also shot dead three people in which two of them were Uyghur Chinese, and the other one was Fonda Amar Sholihin alias Dodo who was alleged Santoso’s right-hand man. In the previous year, Daeng Koro, the bomb expert, was also shot down in an engagement.
Questioning Tinombala Operation
Despite the success of Tinombala Operation to reduce the number of MIT members situated in the woods, some people still question the performance of security forces who are considered failed in capturing the Santoso-led group in Gunung Biru, Poso Pesisir through Camar Maleo IV operation. The declaratory figure of Malino I for the peace of Poso, Rev. Rinaldi Damanik said that Santoso’s adventure keeps ongoing and that becomes an eternal project for some certain parties. It is related to the statement of the Chief of Police or the Armed Forces Commander who stated to the Indonesian people, especially people in Poso that in the end of December 2015, Santoso group can be caught through large-scale operation. However, until January 2016 Santoso was yet to be captured. The operation was even extended by the personnel replacement. In this regards, Rev. Rinaldi Damanik suggested the security forces to change the strategy in hunting down Santoso group.
The Operation Success
It is never easy to capture Santoso group who have carried out guerrilla warfare in the woods and mountains for 10 years. The wide and difficult terrain where they are hiding becomes a tough challenge for the joint task force team. However, it seems that Santoso group’s condition is getting pressured and weakened as the logistic and food supply are on the wane. During the operation conducted from January 2015 to January 2016, 7 people were killed, and 17 people were undergoing the legal process, as well as some evidences were confiscated such as firearm, ammunition, homemade bombs, bomb ingredients, clothes, torch, and flag of IS.
The Camar Maleo IV operation has successfully given a good security to the people of Poso while the operation was on going through isolating the MIT group so that the people feel safe and secure. The success of Camar Camar Maleo IV which is continued with Tinombala has involved the active role of Poso community. The number of MIT members in Pegunungan Biru keeps decreasing because of the crossfire or the arrest that was conducted based on information support of the people that directly report whenever they found something suspicious happened in their village. Therefore, the participation of the people from various villages can be the determinant of success of Tinombala operation in hunting down the Santoso group that has been carried out since 2013.
*) I Nurdin, Master Student of STIMA IMMI Jakarta