Indonesia strengthens anti-terror unit

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Elite squad gets 600 more policemen to combat increased terror threats

Indonesia is beefing up its elite Detachment 88 unit in the light of increased threats from local and international terror networks, national police chief Tito Karnavian said yesterday.

There will be an additional 600 policemen assigned to the squad, bringing the total headcount to 1,300.

"We now have ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), not only Al-Qaeda elements. We are also seeing those who, through the Internet, got self-radicalised, learnt how to make bombs and made attack plans," said General Tito.

"Therefore, Detachment 88 must be beefed up."

Gen Tito, who was involved in various high-profile terrorist raids when he was a field officer with Detachment 88, said "silent operations" must be stepped up, meaning more pre-emptive strikes are needed.

This, in turn, requires higher detection capability, he added.

Tasks within Detachment 88 are divided into various operations: arrests and raids, investigation and cross-examination, interrogation, wiretapping and evidence handling.

The elite unit has won praise for the many raids it has made on militant networks in Indonesia, foiling attacks and arresting terrorist suspects.

This year, it arrested 154 and killed 16 suspected terrorists during its raids, with 14 officers injured and four killed.

This compares with 150 arrests last year that disrupted terror plots, including the planned launch of rocket attacks on Singapore's Marina Bay Sands from Batam Island.

Gen Tito also unveiled plans to send more police officers for overseas studies, saying he was inspired by the late Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in his bold move in preventing corruption.

The Indonesian police force has, for the first time, received an allocation of 120 scholarship positions from the Finance Ministry to send its personnel abroad. This will mean a record number of officers studying overseas in the coming years.

"We want to have big waves of new faces and a less corrupt culture," said Gen Tito.

"When they return to Indonesia, they will have their own community who think the same way and who will be the agents of change. We want to replicate the Singapore concept. This is what Singapore did."

He noted that when young policemen are sent to the United States, Britain and other countries with a less corrupt culture, they will be shaped accordingly.

The plan is to send 100 of the 300 fresh graduates from the police academy, as well as scores of other early-career policemen, overseas, said Gen Tito.