Indonesia: Jihad may have ended in Poso, says think-tank

Jakarta, 22 Jan. (AKI) - A year after a police operation left 14 Islamic militants and a policeman dead in Poso in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi, a leading think-tank says jihadi violence may have ended there.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) said there are grounds for "cautious optimism" but more needs to be done to ensure peace is maintained.

In its report, Indonesia: Tackling Radicalism in Poso, the ICG said that the government had arrested and convicted those guilty of jihadi crimes since 2001, while extremists linked to Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) had fled the area.

"No serious violence has taken place in Poso for twelve months, " the report said. "The JI administrative unit in Poso appears to have been destroyed, at least temporarily."

According to Sidney Jones, a senior ICG advisor, welcomed government peace initiatives but warned that new threats are emerging.

“Now the task is to see that the peace is sustained,” she said.

Jemaah Islamiyah is a terrorist organisation committed to uniting most of Southeast Asia into an Islamic caliphate. The group is responsible for several bombings that have taken place in the region since 2000 including the 2002 Bali bombing.

A bloody sectarian war raged between Christians and Muslims in Poso between 1998 and 2001. It was reportedly chosen as a new hub by JI soon after the end of the conflict and the move led to an escalation of religious-related crimes.

In January 2007 conflict erupted when police sought to persuade those alleged of crimes to turn themselves in.

The ICG said in the past year the Indonesian government had made funds available to improve education and promoting vocational training in the region.

The two initiatives are aimed at diluting the influence of radical teaching and ensuring that would-be extremists have career opportunities.

The ICG report, however, warned that their implementation could undermine peace efforts.

The think-tank highlighted that grievances, particularly relating to justice and accountability, have not been fully resolved. It also said funding initiatives were mired in allegations of corruption, the issue that most concerns non-government organisations and community leaders.

 “The whiff - or stench - of corruption has long hung over Poso, and it undermines public trust in government more generally”, said John Virgoe, ICG Southeast Asia project director.

“If corruption can be brought under control and the deradicalisation initiatives take hold, then perhaps the residents of Poso will have reason for hope”.

The ICG said national and local government needed to lift its auditing procedures and increase funding transparency.


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