Jakarta 20 August 2013 The spate of police shootings in the greater Jakarta area in the last two months is qualitatively different than some of the earlier attacks on police and suggests that the group or groups involved may be consciously adopting an urban guerrilla strategy.

That possibility is heightened by the fact that over the last two years, an Indonesian translation of Carlos Marighella’s Mini-manual of the Urban Guerrilla has appeared on radical Islamist websites with the title Gerilya Kota.

As has been widely reported, on Friday, 16 August, two men on a motorcycle shot Warrant Officer Kus Hendratma around 10 p.m. in front of the Bani Umar Mosque in Pondok Aren, Bintaro, SouthTangerang. An undercover police team driving a Toyota Avanza pursued the shooters and hit their motorcycle, but the impact caused the car to hit a gutter, and it flipped over. One of the police, Sgt. Major Maulana, crawled out and was immediately shot by one of the attackers, who then commandeered another motorcycle and drove off with his accomplice.

A week earlier, on 7 August a gunman shot and killed Warrant Officer Dwiyatna in front of the Sari Asih hospital, also in South Tangerang. On 27 July, a traffic policeman, Warrant Officer Patah Saktiyono, was shot and killed on Jalan Cirendeu Raya, Ciputat.

The working hypothesis of the police is that the perpetrators of all of these attacks are former members of the Jakarta branch of an old Darul Islam faction led until his arrest in July 2011 by Muhammad Ichwan alias Abu Umar. At its height, Abu Umar’s group covered much of the greater Jakarta area, with cells in West Jakarta, North Jakarta and Tangerang.

But Abu Umar’s group has splintered, and the men could be from any of the following:

  • The group around Ahmad Sofian in Bojong, Depok. Sofian, who had been the leader of Abu Umar’s cell in Cengkareng, broke away and formed his own group after Abu Umar was arrested. He himself  was arrested in October 2012.  Seven other members of the group are also in prison; five were killed in police operations, including two men shot in Pondok Aren, where the most recent shooting took place, on 30 March 2013. The group, which was not very experienced, had reached out for training to a group in Solo (the Badri Hartono group) which in turn had links to Santoso’s Mujahidin Indonesia Timur in Poso, Central Sulawesi.
  • The group around Kodrat. Kodrat had been a member of Abu Umar’s Cileduk cell and reportedly took over the Jakarta operations in mid-2012, after a brief interregnum of someone named Jamil, whose current whereabouts and activities are unknown. Kodrat, together with the remnants of Abu Sofian’s group, took part in the robbery of a gold store in Tambora, Jakarta on 10 March 2013 and was killed by police shortly thereafter.
  • The group around Abu Roban.  Abu Roban, killed by police in Batang, Central Java, on 8 May 2013, had also been a member of the Cileduk cell. He broke with Kodrat, however, around August 2012 and began recruiting over the internet, attracting several JAT members from Central and West Java. One of these was Willem Maksum from Bandung, who sold Abu Roban guns and ammunition, including dozens of 9.9mm bullets. It is worth noting that it was a 9mm bullet that killed Warrant Officer Dwiyatna on 7 August. Abu Roban also had direct ties to a Darul Islam group in Makassar that had been part of Abu Umar’s network as well as to Santoso. In December 2012, he declared himself the leader of Mujahidin Indonesia Barat.

This series of attacks, especially the last one, seems different from earlier incidents. The fatal shootings of two police in Central Java in March-April 2010 in Kebumen and Purowrejo, Central Java, were revenge killings for the deaths and arrests of mujahidin linked to the Aceh training camp. The attack on the Hamparan Perak police station in North Sumatra in September 2010 was retaliation for the killing of three terrorist suspects in Medan three days earlier. The shooting of two police in Palu in May 2011 by Santoso’s men was designed to get weapons for training. Even the shootings of police in Solo over three days by a group led by Abu Umar’s stepson Farhan, who had just returned from a stint with Abu Sayyaf in the southern Philippines, does not appear to have been conceived with much strategy in mind.

The recent killings fit with an urban guerrilla strategy. The Marighella manual, which appeared with a jihadi introduction on the Indonesian al-Qaeda site www.al-busyro.com and many other places (e.g. suaraikhwanmuwahhid.blogspot.com and fadliistiqomah.blogspot.com), notes that urban guerrilla warfare depends on hit-and-run tactics with a high degree of mobility and in-depth knowledge of the locale – every street, every alleyway. It also depends on a network of local support, so that perpetrators after an attack can disappear into the community, change identities, and prepare for the next attack. It notes that unlike guerrilla wars in remote areas where targets are police or military posts, the targets of urban warfare are central institutions like banks, communications installations; electrical grids; weapons depots; central offices of the police and military; and officials of the regime in power. Guerrilla operations have to be planned with care and carried out with lightning speed, so those involved can get away without leaving a trace. “They must take the concept of hit and run to an extreme,” the manual says.

The Marighella manual is not the first instruction manual on urban warfare to circulate on jihadi sites: in the early 2000s, members of Jemaah Islamiyah studied a book simply called Gerilya and there have been various manuals downloaded and translated from the Internet over the years.

But if one pursues the hypothesis that some former members of the Abu Umar group have embarked on this strategy, then some other possibilities follow:

  • the group or groups involved have acquired some better trained or more experienced members than they have had in the past, since strategic thinking was decidedly absent from some of the earlier efforts;
  • the police reaction to the killings, including instructing men of the metropolitan Jakarta police command not to wear uniforms going to or from work, is likely to be seen by the perpetrators as evidence that the strategy of causing fear in a national institution is working;
  • more attacks are likely to follow as long as the ammunition holds out;
  • diversionary attacks are also possible, since the manual notes the importance of the element of surprise and recommends the tactic of changing targets to keep the security forces off balance.  In this regard, it is not impossible that the attack on the Buddhist temple on 4 August is related. The incompetence of the perpetrators in that attack compared with the sangfroid of the Pondok Aren killers does suggest a different set of actors, however.  
©2013 Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.