Even as Indonesia is in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic, terrorism cells are thriving in the country, the authorities have said. Terrorists are actively recruiting operatives, plotting attacks and spreading radical messages, the counterterrorism officials in the country said.
"They are actively recruiting, spreading their ideology, raising funds and conducting training," said the National Counter Terrorism Agency's (BNPT) director for enforcement, Eddy Hartono.
In an exclusive interview with the Channel News Asia, the brigadier said terror cells in the country "are not sitting back and relaxing." However, he added that terror cells have not been able to dispatch as many militants to join outfits like the Al-Qaeda and the Isis as they used to do before the pandemic.
The counterterrorism wing of the police arrested as many as 232 people in 2020 for alleged involvement in terrorism. "They are indeed planning attacks on security officials, state institutions, military and the police ... Thank goodness we have been able to prevent (these attacks) from happening," Hartono added.
The authorities also said terror cells have been using raising funds from the public through thousands of 'charity boxes on the pretext of donations for natural disasters, social aid as well as COVID-19 relief efforts.'
The pandemic has worsened the terrorism crisis the country is facing, the brigadier added. With many people losing jobs in the pandemic, the propensity to turn to radical outfit has increased. "There will be more people prone to radicalisation ... We counter this by building a counter narrative. We have been engaging religious and community leaders and dispelling the narratives used by radicals. We promote values of nationalism, tolerance and togetherness," he said.
"We are intensifying our online monitoring. We have worked together with the BIN (Indonesian Intelligence Agency), police and Kominfo (Ministry for Information Technology and Communications) and set up a task force specifically to monitor content containing intolerance and terrorism."