Surabaya unlikely target for terrorist attack

Surabaya unlikely target for terrorist attack
Indonesia police guard the US consulate compound in Surabaya located in Indonesia's eastern Java island on October 28, 2012.

Lack of consolidation among religious hardliners in Surabaya and its neighbouring areas has made the country's second-largest city an unlikely target for terrorist attacks in the near future, analysts have said.

Despite the US Embassy's recent warning about a possible major security threat in Surabaya, terrorism expert Al Chaidar said he believed that there was no active hardline movement in the country that considered the East Javan capital a suitable target for a terror plot.

"Unlike Jakarta and Bali, Surabaya is considered by jihadist groups to be an unfavorable region [to launch attacks] since they have only a small number of supporters in the city. Even the East Java region itself has no strong historical tie to radical Islamism, unlike West or Central Java," Al Chaidar told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Sociologist Muhammad Najib Azca of Gadjah Mada University's Center for Peace and Security Studies (PSKP) supported Chaidar's view.

"Many studies have shown that [recent] terrorist activities can be traced back to past radical movements. Unlike West Java, which once experienced the rise of the Darul Islam movement, East Java doesn't have such a genealogy," he said.

On Saturday, the US Embassy in Jakarta posted an announcement on its official website warning its citizens of a potential threat against US-associated hotels and banks in Surabaya.

"The US Embassy has been made aware of a potential threat against US-associated hotels and banks in Surabaya, Indonesia. The US Embassy recommends heightened vigilance and awareness of one's surroundings when visiting such facilities," the embassy said without elaborating.

Responding to the security alert, National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie confirmed on Sunday that the police had so far found no evidence indicating that an attack was being planned in the city.

National Police chief Gen. Sutarman has also insisted that Surabaya is safe.

Indonesia, which has a Muslim-majority population, has been subjected to a number of deadly attacks by religious hardliners, including the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people.

The country has also been revealed to be one of the biggest suppliers of fighters to the Islamic State (IS) movement after the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) reported that more than 500 Indonesians had joined the group in the civil wars raging in Syria and Iraq.

Last month, the Malaysian authorities deported 12 Indonesians, mostly from East Java, who were allegedly on their way to Syria to support IS.

Several days later, a four-minute YouTube video went viral, showing an alleged IS member issuing a threat in Indonesian against the Indonesian Military (TNI), specifically TNI commander Gen. Moeldoko, the National Police and Ansor's civilian security guards (Banser), a youth wing of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama.

The man in the video was later identified as Salim Mubarok Attamimi, a milk vendor from Malang, a city located some 90 kilometers south of Surabaya.

BNPT chief Comr. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution could not be reached for comment.

Najib, however, said he believed that the absence of visible "symbols of immorality" in Surabaya had also left Islamic hardliners with no strong pretext to attack the city.

"The recent closure of the Dolly [red-light district] by the local administration, for instance, should win praise from these hard-liners instead of violent assaults," he said, referring to the now-defunct prostitution complex, once the largest in Southeast Asia.

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