Soldiers from the National Police’s Mobile Brigade on patrol in Jakarta. One of its officers died during a gunfight with a terrorist group on Dec 13. (Photo by Konradus Epa/ucanews)
A group of terrorists affiliated with Islamic State (IS) have attacked civilians in the Indonesian province of Central Sulawesi and shot dead a police officer.
The attack was carried out on Dec. 13 by five members of the Eastern Indonesian Mujahideen (MIT) as worshippers made their way home after attending Friday prayers at a local mosque in Salubanga village.
First, they took some civilians hostage, only to release them soon after and flee into the forest. Then they targeted police at a checkpoint near the mosque, shooting dead Muhammad Saepul Muhdori, a Mobile Brigade officer.
Immediately after the attack, the authorities drafted in hundreds of police and troops from a special task force to hunt down the attackers.
“We are sure that the perpetrators are part of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen terrorist group and we are chasing them,” Central Sulawesi Police spokesman Didik Pranoto told ucanews.
He also confirmed some details of Muhdori’s death, saying that he died after being shot in the stomach, shoulder and head. The officer was buried on Sunday in his hometown of Pandeglang, Banten province.
Police say the latest attack follows one also thought to have been carried out by MIT in July, when the bodies of two local residents were found mutilated near the very spot where Muhdori was killed.
MIT was established in 2012 and, unlike the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), whose area of operation covers the whole of Indonesia, its area of operation is restricted to the districts of Poso and Parigi in Central Sulawesi. The group is both affiliated with both IS and Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group based in the southern Philippines.
The group’s first leader, Santoso, was killed in a gunfight in 2016, in which another militant leader, Muhammad Basri was captured.
Stanislaus Riyanta, an intelligence analyst from the University of Indonesia, said those responsible for the latest attack had gone to the village and attacked police because they had run out of food.
He also said he believed the weapons used were likely obtained from a terrorist group in the southern Philippines “because they have good relations” with each other.
“Currently, the group’s members are probably less than 20 people. But they might have recruited new ones,” he added.
Its members, he said, come from several regions in Indonesia, including Java and West Nusa Tenggara province.