Sunday March 24, 2019
Home World Humanitarian ...

Humanitarian workers and rights activists Join to underline need for humane treatment of prisoners in Indonesia

Security forces killed 14 MIT members, including six ethnic Uyghurs, in 2016; Seven were killed in 2015, and another 31 captured

0
//
Human Trafficking (Representational Image. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Palu, September 03, 2016: Indonesia has all but decimated the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), a band of militants once considered the nation’s most deadly domestic terror group.

But in the waning months of a massive security operation in Central Sulawesi where the MIT is based, humanitarian workers and rights activists are joining efforts to persuade 14 people still hiding in the jungles of Poso Regency to turn themselves in.

National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) chief Imdadun Rahmat traveled to the provincial capital of Palu this week to underline the need for humane treatment of prisoners.

“We continue to support and encourage the government initiative to restore the losses suffered by the community following the conflict in Poso, and urge good treatment of those prisoners who were captured alive,” Imdadun told reporters here Wednesday.

Follow NewsGram on Twitter

“The main point is, no more blood in Poso. We are taking these steps together, prioritising a persuasive approach,” Central Sulawesi police chief Brig. Gen. Rudy Sufahriadi said as he repeated appeals for the remaining militants to give up.

Officials have approached relatives of remaining MIT members to assure them that those who surrender will not be deprived of their rights, he said.

“Certainly we will treat them well, whether they are captured or surrender during the operation,” Rudy said.

MIT holdouts include women

Estimated to have about 32 members in early 2016, the MIT is now less than half that size, officials said. Holdouts include two of the group’s leaders, Basri (alias Bagong) and Ali Kalora, and their wives.

https://twitter.com/ProdemIndonesia/status/770643822544056321

Hundreds of security personnel have been on the ground in remote Poso regency since January 2015 in two operations code-named Camar Maleo and Tinombala.

Follow NewsGram on Facebook

Security forces killed 14 MIT members, including six ethnic Uyghurs, in 2016. Seven were killed in 2015, and another 31 captured.

In July of this year, Indonesia confirmed that its most wanted militant – MIT leader Santoso – had been shot dead.

Santoso, who had pledged allegiance to the extremist group Islamic State (IS), died in a shootout with security forces in Poso on July 18, police said.

Officials vowed to prolong a security operation aimed at capturing or killing the remnants of the MIT. That operation is scheduled to continue for two more months.

Local police and rights activists say they have received intelligence that the holdouts are willing to surrender, but they are afraid to do so.

Follow NewsGram on Twitter

Therapy

After capture or surrender, MIT members will be put in de-radicalization programs, National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chief Suhardi Alius said in Palu on Wednesday.

Community members will be involved in this process, not just religious scholars and government officials, he added.

He described it as an intensive program designed “so that it can really provide therapy for those who have been exposed to radicalization.”

Several other activists and public figures have come to the region to join the efforts and assist local communities traumatized by years of violence.

The group includes members of the medical charity Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (Mer-C). Team 13, as it has been dubbed, is already in Poso but unwilling to talk to the press.

Trapped

Over the past two years, rights activists from the Central Sulawesi Institute for Legal Studies and Human Rights Advocacy (LPS-HAM Sulteng) often protested when security forces killed suspected militants instead of capturing them alive.

They also criticized security forces for failing to capture Santoso and the two other MIT leaders over 18 months.

After Santoso was killed, the chief of LPS-HAM Sulteng, Mohd Affandi, called for a halt to security sweeps.

“If the military operation stops, Team 13 can freely move on the field. Unfortunately the operation is still in progress, so the team will automatically get trouble,” Affandi told BenarNews.

Locals in the impoverished area have been trapped between armed militants and security forces.

“Farmers did not go to work because of they were worried if there is a clash between armed civilian groups and security forces,” Celebes Institute Director Adriany Badrah once said.

In September 2015, three farmers were decapitated in Central Sulawesi’s Parigi Moutong regency. Officials said Santoso’s group was likely behind the killings and urged farmers to suspend agricultural activities for the time being.

Prior to the rise of IS and its spread in the archipelago, MIT was seen as the most dangerous terror group on Indonesian soil, a remnant of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the network that carried out the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings.

Hundreds of Indonesians have gone to Iraq and Syria to join IS, and an IS-claimed attack in Jakarta in Jan. 2015 left eight dead. (Benar News)

Next Story

U.S. To Begin Search Through The Remnants Of The Islamic State’s Final Enclave

SDF officials have raised the possibility that the remaining IS fighters may also be holding prisoners and hostages, but there has been no word as to their fate in recent days.

0
IS
Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) patrol near the village of Baghuz in the Syrian countryside, March 20, 2019. VOA

U.S.-backed forces are starting to search through the remnants of the Islamic State’s final enclave in northeastern Syria, looking for fighters, mines and booby-trapped explosives.

The effort Wednesday to sift through the broken buildings and shredded tents that litter the landscape in the town of Baghuz comes a day after Syrian Democratic Forces took the area from IS fighters in what officials described as a significant blow to the terror group.

SDF officials said as many as 1,500 more people surrendered following Tuesday’s incursion into IS’s final stronghold, including hundreds of injured IS fighters.

Suspected Islamic State (IS) group fighters and civilians are screened by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019.
Suspected Islamic State (IS) group fighters and civilians are screened by members of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019. VOA

But concerns run high that fighters lurk in trenches dug all around the former IS enclave, as well as in a complex network of caves and tunnels, which some officials said could run for more than two kilometers.

An unknown number of IS fighters have also retreated to a sliver of land along the Euphrates River, and there are no estimates for how many fighters could be hiding in other parts of Baghuz.

“A group of Daesh in Baghuz still fight back and hold their families as human shields,” Zana Amedi, a media official with the YPG militia, which has been supporting the SDF offensive, told VOA Wednesday, using the terror group’s Arabic acronym.

Despite the official caution, small celebrations broke out Wednesday around Baghuz, with some groups of SDF fighters playing music and dancing.

“We have won. We have eliminated the enemy, the terrorists,” Majid Hejjo, an SDF fighter, told the French news agency.

“The comrades are tired, and the battle is over,” said another SDF fighter.

No ‘complete victory’ yet

In Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump was equally effusive, telling reporters on the South Lawn of the White House that the very last speck of IS-held territory would be liberated within hours.

“There is no red,” Trump said just hours after an intelligence briefing, showing off a map that compared IS-held territory now and the day he was elected. “In fact, there’s actually a tiny spot, which will be gone by tonight.”

Still, SDF officials and U.S. defense officials have been wary of saying the fight against the terror group’s self-declared caliphate is over.

It has been three months since Trump first announced the defeat of IS in a tweet,and more than a month since he told a meeting of ministers from coalition countries that the end of the caliphate “should be formally announced, probably sometime next week.”

More recently, multiple SDF officials have also forecast the fall of IS within days or even hours, only to see efforts slowed by fierce fighting and the presence of tens of thousands of civilians, mostly the wives, children and family members of IS fighters.

They now say more than 5,000 people have fled Baghuz since SDF resumed its final assault on IS just over a week ago, despite earlier saying only about 1,000 civilians and 300 fighters were holed up in Baghuz shortly after the operation to liberate the town got under way last month.

Smoke rises from the Islamic State (IS) group's last remaining position in the village of Baghuz during battles with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the countryside of the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour, March 20, 2019.
Smoke rises from the Islamic State (IS) group’s last remaining position in the village of Baghuz during battles with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in the countryside of the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour, March 20, 2019. VOA

In all, SDF says more than 5,000 IS fighters have surrendered or been captured over the past month, while another 1,300 have been killed in the fighting.

The U.S.-led coalition also said Wednesday there has been no letup in efforts to ensure the terror group is defeated.

“The ground offensive, coalition airstrikes and artillery continue as needed,” coalition spokesman Col. Sean Ryan told VOA. “The SDF feel they are in control of the area, but as long as Daesh puts up any type of fight and hides in tunnels, they cannot declare complete victory.”

Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather near the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019.
Fighters with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) gather near the village of Baghuz, Syria, March 20, 2019. VOA

‘Tens of thousands’ of fighters

SDF officials have raised the possibility that the remaining IS fighters may also be holding prisoners and hostages, but there has been no word as to their fate in recent days.

Thousands of SDF troops have massed around Baghuz for weeks, laying siege to the town in an effort to liberate the final IS enclave in Syria. Officials said Kurdish special forces from Iraq also had been brought in to help with the operations.

Also Read: After Failed Hanoi Summit, U.S. Imposes First North Korea-Linked Sanctions

Even once an official announcement is made, U.S. defense officials caution IS still has “tens of thousands” of fighters working either as part of sleeper cells or as part of an active, clandestine insurgency.

Additionally, senior officials believe most of the group’s senior leadership, including its self-declared caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remain at large. (VOA)