Brief: Indonesia Reins in Islamic State Remnants

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 18

Captured weapons from the August 14 raid via detiknews

It has been nearly ten years since Indonesia’s elite counter-terrorism force, Densus 88, began hunting down the country’s most influential Islamic State (IS) loyalist, Santoso, in Sulawesi in 2015. The force eventually killed him in 2016 (, December 1, 2015). Since Santoso’s death and IS’s loss of the “territorial caliphate” in Syria and Iraq, Indonesian jihadists have largely joined Jemaa Islamiyah (JI) and Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which advocate ideologies comparable to IS, but no longer focus explicitly on militancy. Nevertheless, Densus 88 has also been clamping down on these two groups and their supporters; in May, the force arrested two JI and JAD members in East Java, for example (, May 25). In January and February, similar arrests of JI and JAD members were also carried out in Jakarta, Banten, and Sulawesi.

However, on August 14, Densus 88 arrested two IS loyalists, who do not appear to have been either JI or JAD members and were plotting to attack a police station (, August 14). They had 16 weapons, including guns, in their home outside Jakarta. These were found alongside IS-style black-and-white flags, indicating their loyalty to IS. Another source of concern was the fact that one of the two IS loyalists worked for a government-run railway company and posted pro-IS content on social media, but was somehow able to pass security protocols right up until his arrest.

Police stations have been forced to remain on high alert in Indonesia since last December, when a suicide bomber—who had previously been jailed for terrorism offences and had been a member of JAD—detonated his explosives outside of a police station in West Java (, December 7, 2022). This led to the death of the suicide bomber and one police officer. The attack also demonstrated to Indonesian authorities the relevance of the country’s anti-terrorism law, which led to the proscription of JAD, despite this attacker managing to evade and deceive authorities.

More broadly, on the international stage, Indonesia has received a stamp of approval from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). In April, the organization announced that “Indonesia successfully detects, investigates and prosecutes terrorist financing in line with its risk profile” (, April 27). Although the FATF acknowledged that “some key gaps remain,” it also found that “Indonesia has taken steps to address shortcomings in their legal framework for targeted financial sanctions on proliferation financing.”

Beyond terrorism financing, Indonesia has also improved bilateral counter-terrorism relations with Turkey, which was formerly the country through which Indonesians traveled to Syria to join the wider jihadist movement as fighters; they would then influencing their Muslim compatriots back home. On August 23, for example, Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, Mahfud MD, met the Turkish Minister of the Interior, Ali Yerlikaya, in Istanbul to sign a Security Cooperation Agreement (SCA) (, August 28). While Indonesia no longer faces the same risks as it did during IS’s peak, when several hundred Indonesians traveled through Turkey to Syria, the country is vigilant of potential risks remaining from IS at home and abroad.