Indonesia fights radicals

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Reporter Chad Bouchard visits a neighborhood near Jakarta that is on the front lines of Indonesia's fight against radicalization and terrorism.

MARCO WERMAN: Indonesia faces similar challenges in its fight against militants. Indonesia police have killed key militant leaders in a series of raids over the last few months. But the sweep also revealed evidence that previously isolated militant networks in Southeast Asia are now working together more closely. Reporter Chad Bouchard takes us to one neighborhood near Jakarta that's on the front lines of Indonesia's fight against radicalization and terrorism.

CHAD BOUCHARD: On a narrow street in Pamulang, a food vendor pushes his cart down the alley striking empty glass bottles to draw customers. One of the only upscale houses on the block is wrapped in yellow police tape. Not far away a banner over the street declares stay alert, terrorists are among us. One recent afternoon the house and this sleepy street, known locally as Sour Alley, became one of Indonesia's battlegrounds in a nationwide crackdown on terrorism. Lifelong resident Uni, who like many Indonesians goes by only one name, holds up a scrap of plywood to reveal five little craters in the concrete floor of an open air food stall. The holes are from a shootout when police took down two terror suspects trying to escape up the alley on motorbikes. Uni says she was shocked to hear that a respected neighbor, Fauzi, the one who lived in the big house at the end of the street was arrested for sheltering members of a terrorist cell. She says Fauzi joined a prayer group in an adjoining neighborhood where a hard line cleric named Abu Jibril was preaching.

INTERPRETER: We were suspicious of Fauzi. We began to notice a change in him about a year ago. He began wearing Arabic clothes, keeping away from the rest of the community, but we didn't have any evidence. It's clear now he was following Abu Jibril. Police found bombs and detonators in his house.

BOUCHARD: Abu Jibril's sermons, broadcast over the Mosque's loudspeakers, use inflammatory language calling non-Muslims infidels. Indonesians rarely use that kind of rhetoric. Indonesia is a secular country and though about 85% of its residents are Muslim, the constitution protects against religious discrimination. Women here do not usually wear Burkas or veils, though some wear head scarves as a symbol of piety. Most people in the Pamulang neighborhood have lived here their whole lives. They practice a moderate form of Sunni Islam and are known for being devout, but also for being tolerant and friendly to outsiders. When I start asking questions about religion, neighbors escort me to a community elder, a 65-year-old Islamic scholar named Astawi. He says he wants to make sure I don't misrepresent the religion. The people caught here, he says, don't represent the true Islam.

INTERPRETER: Maybe people from outside who were brought into the community by friends, have also brought other ideas about Islam. And maybe the result is terrorism here in our community. But this is the first time in my life anything like this has happened.

BOUCHARD: Astawi is reluctant to admit that radical Islam could be taking root here. But Sidney Jones, an expert on Indonesian terrorism for the International Crisis Group, says those kinds of attitudes have to change because the neighborhood itself is changing.

SIDNEY JONES: Pamulang is interesting because its so close to the capital, but its also a place where the traditional view of Indonesian Islam is moderate and relaxed and open and pluralist is beginning to come open to question because of the hard line groups that set up shop there.

BOUCHARD: She says residents need to start paying attention to those behavioral changes that signal burgeoning radicalism. Like a sudden change to more traditionally Islamic looking clothes, reading radical texts, or a shift in personality. Jones says Pamulang is an example of a slowly growing threat in Indonesia.

JONES: In a lot of communities there is one radical preacher who attracts a number of followers and that can be anywhere. And that said, I think radicalization is restricted to a very small fringe in Indonesia, but it is happening and it's happening without being detected by a lot of senior political figures.

BOUCHARD: Back on Uni's stoop, women have gathered to share an evening snack of unripe papaya in spicy syrup. She says police only killed three terrorists during the recent raid, but residents are afraid that more will make their way to Pamulang.

INTERPRETER: If more terrorists come, I say don't hesitate, just eradicate them. Shoot them dead if necessary. I don't mind. That way people here in Pamulang can live peacefully. Children can play peacefully. Schools can do their activity as usual. What happened the other day, we don't want that to ever happen again.

BOUCHARD: As the sun sets, Muslim scholar Astawi begins to read a prayer over a loudspeaker in a building across from Fauzi's boarded up house. Outside, a few policemen stand quietly. In between prayer times, they now use this little building as an observation post. For The World, I'm Chad Bouchard in Pamulang, Indonesia.