JAKARTA: Indonesia Wednesday installed a prominent police general as its new anti-terror chief at a time when the Muslim-majority nation faces a rising threat from citizens flocking to join jihadists in Syria.
Tito Karnavian’s promotion to head of the National Counter Terrorism Agency came two months after a suicide bombing and gun attack in Jakarta claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group left four attackers and four civilians dead.
The agency has been strongly criticized for its failure to stop hundreds of Indonesians going to Syria to join IS, and for its inadequate programs to rehabilitate terror convicts in prison.
One of the Jakarta attackers was an Islamic extremist who had spent years in jail, and police believe Indonesian radicals fighting in Syria may have had a role in planning the attacks along with others currently behind bars back home.
Karnavian was promoted to head the agency from his role as Jakarta police chief. In the past he has also headed the police elite counter-terror unit, which has enjoyed considerable success in tackling militancy.
“I am very happy to return to my natural habitat of counter-terrorism,” he told reporters as he was inaugurated at the presidential palace in Jakarta.
He said one of his priorities would be taking on radicals in Poso, a militant hotbed on the central island of Sulawesi where an extremist group has pledged allegiance to IS.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has suffered several Islamic extremist bomb attacks in the past 15 years, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
A crackdown had weakened the most dangerous extremist networks, but the emergence of IS has proved a potent new rallying cry for radicals.