05 August 2009

Messages and implications of the Jakarta bombings

Jakarta Bombing

Benny YP Siahaan , Geneva | Opinion

The recent bombings in Jakarta have effectively reaffirmed our fear that terrorists still exist and are capable of inflicting harm. Perhaps these are the main messages behind their atrocious acts.

By placing an improvised explosive device (IED) in a backpack and another in a small traveling suitcase, the bombers took nine lives and injured numerous others.

In this instance, when compared to the Bali bombings and other prior terrorist attacks in Indonesia, the casualties are fewer.

However it should be remembered that in many acts of terrorism the primary objective is to inflict psychological harm, which is often far greater than any actual physical damage. So what are the real long-term consequences for Indonesia?

Many analysts have suggested that in the short term, neither the economic nor political stability of Indonesia is likely to be threatened by the recent attacks.

The hotel chains hit in the attacks are often frequented by Western business people and seem to have become a favourite target for those wishing to commit acts of terrorism in Indonesia and worldwide.

The op-ed article written by Noor Huda Ismail and Carl Ungerer in The Australian (July 17), the same day as the terrorist bombing in Jakarta, is an important contribution to the issue at hand and needs further consideration. In particular, it suggested that Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) may still have the capability to relaunch an attack.

It is true that since the Bali bombings, the Indonesian government has successfully undermined JI and its factions by exposing its financial links from outside supporters, cutting its ability to purchase heavyweight explosive chemicals and devices. This pressure forced JI to operate under the radar and continue launching cheap attacks at the easiest targets with the maximum possible damage.

Such low cost and low level attacks will perhaps become JI's main method for future attacks, considering they are relatively inexpensive and straightforward to carry out.

What can be done in the face of this possibility?

The methodology and targets of terrorists have continued to change over the years, but targeting Western hotels and using smaller explosive devices seems to be a growing trend.

It recent years, the extent of the chaos caused or damage inflicted seems to be less important than the fact attacks are actually still occurring at all. The message of perpetual violence and their capability to cause suffering are more pertinent to terrorists than the magnitude of any one attack.

The attacks also raise the question of how to protect soft targets such as hotels. I use the term soft targets because places like Western embassies, for example, are becoming increasingly difficult to attack as security has been lifted to extreme levels.

Finding more advanced methods of security for protecting soft targets such as hotels will remain a key necessity. Indeed, merely increasing traditional security measures for particularly vulnerable targets will only induce terrorists to wait, perhaps even several years, until the target becomes less alert.

In the age of innumerable terrorist threats, the responsibility for security prevention no longer only resides with the authorities as they cannot be everywhere at the same time, especially given the abrupt and secretive nature of terrorism.

On par with this, the public also have the responsibility of not only ensuring their own personal security but also of becoming increasingly more alert about their surroundings. Nonetheless, such advanced security measures should not also make our lives more difficult or make us terribly paranoid.

The writer is an Indonesian diplomat based in Geneva. These are his personal views.

source: The Jakarta Post

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