With national and international attention fixed upon the notorious Nusakambangan prison island following last month's controversial execution of five foreigners convicted of drug trafficking, local Muslim leaders in Cilacap regency, Central Java, are using the spotlight to call attention to another issue: the radicalization of inmates and residents in the surrounding area.
They have warned the government that the island and its surrounding areas, dubbed "Indonesia's Alcatraz", have long been used as a recruiting ground for hard-line Muslim groups whose activities often go unnoticed by security agencies due to the area's remoteness.
These groups, they said, were affiliated with the infamous Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, who is currently serving a prison sentence on the island for terror-related crimes.
"The hard-liners grow well in Nusakambangan and the surroundings. Cadres are trained and indoctrinated at a number of sites there," Nahdlatul Ulama Cilacap branch secretary Hazam Bisri told The Jakarta Post, on Tuesday. The Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) is the nation's largest Muslim organisation.
Hazam said there were at least three locations where hard-line Muslim groups attempted to recruit new followers: in Selok Jero, Kampung Laut and the prison itself.
Radicalization activities inside the prison, according to Hazam, were conducted by Ba'asyir and other convicted terrorists with visitors to the complex.
Quoting local NU data, Hazam said there were at least 70 convicted terrorists serving prison terms on the island.
"Each of the inmates will teach and indoctrinate an average of five people on each visit ," Hazam said.
Selok Jero is a bit far from the prison compound, but it is where newly recruited members take their oaths. A mosque reportedly has also been built there, without the consent of the authorities.
"It has the same access as Kampung Laut. But to get there one must pass through a narrow route on a small boat," Hazam said.
Meanwhile, in Kampung Laut, about 100 Ba'asyir cadres are actively recruiting new cadres among the local inhabitants. Forty have taken up residence in the area.
Chairman of the Cilacap Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB), Taufik Hidayatulloh, expressed similar concerns over the radicalization efforts."They spread propaganda to locals to reject the presence of churches and even to flatten worship venues," Taufik said.
Taufik said the government should boost the presence of the Indonesian Military and the National Police on the island.
"There is no police precinct or military subdistrict command [Koramil] in Kampung Laut. You could say it's a safe haven for jihadists," Taufik said.