Indonesia Bans Islamic State-Linked Terror Group Behind Child Suicide Bombings

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JAKARTA, Indonesia—Indonesia banned the militant group behind Islamic State’s first attack in Southeast Asia and suicide bombings involving children, a move that foreshadows the arrests of hundreds of the group’s members in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.

The decision by a Jakarta court Tuesday to outlaw Jemaah Ansharut Daulah follows a crackdown on the group, which police say was responsible for a gun-and-bombs assault at a Starbucks in the capital that left four bystanders dead, along with four attackers, in early 2016.

Members of JAD also carried out suicide bombings at churches and a police post in the country’s second-largest city, Surabaya, which involved the use of children and left more than a dozen dead. Those attacks in May led lawmakers to grant police greater powers to arrest suspects and detain them for longer periods.

‘When we learn there are people with connections to the organization, we can arrest them.’

—Muhammad Iqbal, national police spokesman
In its ruling, the court said JAD was a terrorist organization with links to Islamic State. The case was the first time in a decade Indonesia has formally prosecuted a terrorist organization. In 2008, the country banned Jemaah Islamiyah, the al Qaeda-linked outfit responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.

A militant— Zainal Anshori, representing JAD and described by police as one of the extremist group’s leaders—stood up and shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” shortly after the judge announced the decision. A lawyer representing JAD, Asludin Hatjani, said the group wouldn’t appeal the verdict.

Terrorism experts said the government sought the ban partly because a recently revised terrorism law allows police to arrest members of banned extremist organizations regardless of whether they participate in the planning or execution of attacks. JAD is thought to have more than 1,000 members nationwide, several hundred of whom are in jail.

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“We should expect to see massive arrests in the coming weeks, particularly of those having participated in paramilitary trainings organized by JAD leaders,” said Muh Taufiqurrohman, a Jakarta-based analyst at the Center for Radicalism and De-radicalization Studies. He expected arrests to number “in the hundreds.”

Muhammad Iqbal, a spokesman for the national police, said the verdict would ease the work of security personnel. “When we learn there are people with connections to the organization, we can arrest them,” he said.

Police in this nation of more than 250 million people have been tightening security ahead of international events, including the Asian Games in August and annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in October. Mr. Taufiqurrohman said a crackdown since the Surabaya bombings has already sent JAD members underground, and that the group had largely ceased to hold meetings.

JAD was set up by Indonesian militants shortly after the rise of Islamic State in 2014, bringing together extremist cells in the archipelago nation that pledged allegiance to the Mideast-based terror group. The group helped recruit Southeast Asians to join Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Police use shields during an antiterror drill, July 31, ahead of the coming Asian Games in Jakarta.
Police use shields during an antiterror drill, July 31, ahead of the coming Asian Games in Jakarta. PHOTO: BEAWIHARTA/REUTERS
One of its founders was Aman Abdurrahman, an Indonesian cleric who has spent most of the past 14 years in prison for terrorism-related activities and was sentenced to death in June for inciting attacks.

In January 2017, the U.S. named JAD a specially designated global terrorist organization, barring U.S. citizens and businesses from conducting transactions with the group.

Despite some recent setbacks, Indonesia for the most part has contained a terrorist threat that peaked in the early 2000s, by building up an elite counterterrorism force with U.S. and Australian assistance. That effort has prevented militants from attempting to establish an Islamic caliphate in Indonesia, instead targeting more poorly policed regions of the neighboring Philippines, according to terrorism experts.

Write to Ben Otto at ben.otto@wsj.com

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