Better intelligence sharing can prevent terror attacks


Better intelligence sharing can prevent terror attacks

Indonesia was aware of the plot late last year and security officials have done well to contain the damage and limit casualties.

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Published: Thu 14 Jan 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 15 Jan 2016, 11:14 AM

A pattern of terror attacks is emerging across the world. First, it was Beirut, then Paris, San Bernardino, Turkey and now Jakarta on Thursday. Shootings and blasts in the Indonesian capital prove Daesh has extended its reach and is taking the setbacks in Syria and Iraq in its stride. The group's brand of violence is finding many takers in far corners of the world. The group's mandarins may have activated sleeper cells in regions where it has a following, a major shift in strategy that governments must take note of to protect their citizens. Tracking down wannabe killers who are unafraid of taking own lives along with their intended targets is akin to searching for a needle in a haystack, but being better prepared could save lives.
Indonesia was aware of the plot late last year and security officials have done well to contain the damage and limit casualties. The latest incident killed two civilians and five terrorists and was planned on the lines of the Paris attack. Daesh has claimed responsibility for the bloody event, the most serious since the July 2009 simultaneous bombings of two hotels in the city, when seven people died.
Terrorists have increased organisational capacity to motivate and deploy many people to attack and spread panic among soft civilian targets. Their profile also gets bigger following such an attack on a major international city. Smalls arms and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were used in the attack, which could mean the militants may have learnt bomb-making skills on the Internet or from manuals and video clippings that may have been sent to them by Daesh operatives in any part of the world. There is no sign of enhanced technical capability, but security officials should be of concerned about the spread of militant ideology in Southeast Asia. Jakarta should be even more worried about its citizens returning from waging war in Syria and Iraq. Skills they picked up during the fighting could be used in the country to spread violence.
Terrorist elements have been active in the region for many years. With Daesh claiming responsibility, Al Qaeda may feel sidelined and could plan some attacks on its own in this battle for influence in Southeast Asia. This could also be a signal to splinter militant outfits to join the ranks of Daesh.
The terrorists struck in the heart of the capital where leading international hotels, malls and high-rise buildings are located and have exposed vulnerabilities in our cities where ordinary people are the victims. The presidential palace is only two kilometres away to the north.
Indonesian police responded swiftly to the assault and contained the damage. Buildings in the vicinity were not affected because of the low-grade explosives used by the killers. But it's important is to prevent such incidents and that's possible only through improved intelligence-sharing and better tracking of suspects online and in the real world.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has called on his country not to be defeated by "these acts of terror". That's small consolation as tourist numbers dwindle and businesses turn their backs on the country.

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