JAKARTA: Indonesia was on Thursday bracing itself for a terror backlash in the wake of the US military raid that resulted in the death of Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
Authorities in Jakarta have stepped up security and surveillance after analysts warned of retaliatory attacks by local militants, possibly targeting Westerners.
Baghdadi detonated a suicide vest during an assault by US forces on his hideout in northwestern Syria, American President Donald Trump announced on Oct. 27.
A string of Daesh-inspired strikes has been carried out in Indonesia over recent years and officials in the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country fear possible retribution attacks following Baghdadi’s death.
“We’re preparing ourselves with heightened caution, covering the gaps that can possibly lead to such attacks,” Hamli, director of Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), told Arab News. “We’re curbing their intentions, abilities and the chances for attack, and enhancing alertness,” Hamli said.
A local Daesh-linked network known as Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) has been blamed for most of the recent attacks in Indonesia, including deadly suicide bombings on churches in the country’s second-biggest city Surabaya.
Indonesia has tightened its anti-terrorism laws, enabling police to launch a sustained crackdown that has netted hundreds of Daesh-inspired militants nationwide.
A spokesman for the National Police, Asep Adi Saputra, said its elite counter-terrorism unit had been closely monitoring all networks of Daesh-linked groups to prevent retaliatory attacks.
Some self-radicalized militants from small cells might get a moral boost from Al-Baghdadi’s death to launch crude attacks, Jakarta-based terrorism expert Rakyan Adibrata said.
Online chatter among Indonesian Daesh supporters has been rife with rumors of a new leader to replace Baghdadi soon, added Adibrata, Indonesia’s director of the International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals (IACSP).
“This holy war will never end, even if our own caliph is dead,” read a posting seen by Arab News in Indonesian pro-Daesh chatrooms on instant messaging platform Telegram. “This is one of the main things we all certainly want, martyrdom.”
Baghdadi, who had been reported dead several times in recent years, had led Daesh since 2010 before the group’s once-sprawling self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq collapsed earlier this year.
Trump’s televised announcement that sought to portray Baghdadi’s last moments as humiliating could possibly lead to a shift in the target of Indonesian militant attacks from local police back to Westerners, Adibrata said.
Indonesia has suffered major terrorist incidents including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists, and the Australian Embassy bombing of 2004 in Jakarta which left nine people dead including the bomber. In recent years local police have increasingly been targeted.