[Updated at 03:46 p.m. on Wednesday to add comments from a former terrorist recruiter in the 6th to 11th paragraphs]
Jakarta. Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, a terrorist group responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing, has deployed charity boxes at minimarkets in several regions throughout Indonesia to trick the unsuspecting shoppers into giving money that would fund the group's terror activities, the police said on Tuesday.
The National Police uncovered the funding operation after questioning 24 Jamaah Islamiyah members arrested in the October-November period.
"The charity box misuses that we found were located in minimarkets in several regions in Indonesia," Brig. Gen. Awi Setiyono, the National Police spokesman, said in a press conference.
Awi said the group used the funds to fly terrorists to Syria for military training and terror tactics and buy weapons and explosives to be used in terror attacks.
The police arrested four JI members in Central Java, two in West Java, one in Banten, eight in Greater Jakarta Region, another in Yogyakarta, and eight in Lampung.
Ken Setiawan, a former terrorist recruiter and founder of a deradicalization organization Islamic State of Indonesia (NII) Crisis Center, said terrorists have been masking their fund-raising efforts using charity activities in the past two decades.
"Terrorist groups take advantage of Indonesians high social spirit. They indeed generate quite a large amount of funds from donations. Some collect donations in supermarkets, minimarkets, gas stations, some are at ATMs, mosques, and others," Ken said on Wednesday.
Some groups also went as far as establishing foundations or orphanage to mask their illicit fundraising.
"They created legal organizations in the form of NGOs, orphanage foundations, to charity organizations. Foundations created by these radical groups have spread under the guise of social activities," Ken said.
In its operation, the congregation, sympathizers, or the group's collaborators will be asked to volunteer to raise funds. They are placed in minimarkets, ATMs, gas stations, traffic light intersections, and houses of worship. In a day, a volunteer can collect millions of rupiah.
"I once joined one of these radical groups, I felt guilty. Today, I feel responsible for educating the public so that they did not become victims. It was enough for me and my friends at the NII Crisis Center. No more victims," he said.
Among the terrorists arrested was Taufiq Bulaga, also known as Upik Lawanga, arrested by the police anti-terror squad Densus 88 in Seputih Banyak, Central Lampung Nov 25.
"UL was called a professor in his group because he was considered to have the ability to make high explosive bombs," Awi said in a press conference a day earlier, referring to Upik by initials.
"UL is a precious asset of Jemaah Islamiyah because he is the successor of Dr. Azhari," Awi said. Azhari, a Malaysian national masterminded the 2002 Bali bombing, was killed in a police raid on his hideout in Indonesia in 2005.
Upik had managed to evade police since 2007 after fleeing from Poso, Central Sulawesi, via Makassar, Surabaya, Solo route until he finally settled in Lampung and was arrested. Densus 88 was still hunting down other JI members suspected of having played a role in hiding Upik.
Upik was involved in various acts of terror in Poso, Central Sulawesi, including the shooting and bombing of Pastor Susianti Tinulele at the Effata Church in Palu in 2004, the bombing at the market in 2005, and the bombing with a thermos bomb in 2006. He caused a total of 27 deaths and 92 injuries there.
Upik was also involved in making bombs to blow up the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in 2009, killing seven people and injuring dozens of others.
In 2020, Upik supplied homemade firearms and set up bunkers to produce and store weapons, explosives, and bomb components that would be used to carry out terror attacks, Awi said.