• June 26, 2024 4:08 am

Security Implications of COVID-19 for Indonesia

Woman wearing protective mask looks on as she waits for a commuter train at a station in Jakarta

The COVID-19 pandemic has inadvertently had a significant impact on Indonesia’s terrorism landscape. On the one hand, it has put the brakes on consolidation efforts among pro-Islamic State (IS) local groups. On the other, it has also increased the risk of prison breaks and uprisings. On the counterterrorism front, police operations to arrest suspects may continue with caution but ongoing trials to prosecute terrorist offenders, as well as deradicalisation programmes have faced disruptions.

Threat Environment

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a mixed impact on pro-IS groups’ indoctrination and recruitment efforts in Indonesia. There have been some calls for opportunistic attacks, with the government seen as weakened as it comes to grips with a brewing domestic health crisis. Anti-Chinese rhetoric has also been ramped up on extremist channels. Although discussions are still largely confined to racist discourses and target lists, experts caution some pro-IS supporters may exploit the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to expand their actual targeting beyond police officials to include domestic and international Chinese targets. In framing the pandemic, pro IS militants believe that only God, and not the virus, which
they claim as God’s creation, should be feared. Moreover, in line with their view that the government is an “apostate” ruler, pro-IS groups also generally reject the government’s call for social or physical distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, albeit with some exceptions.

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