FLASHPOINT: Expert Warns of Potential Terrorist Threats to 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia
Indonesia's terror expert cautions that Israel's participation in the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup could lead to terrorist attacks, as ongoing groups may exploit vulnerabilities despite security efforts. Bali's rejection cost Indonesia's hosting rights. What is the likelihood of an attack?
- An Indonesian terrorism expert warns of potential terrorist attacks in Indonesia due to Israel's participation in the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup.
- Three groups of concern have been identified: Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), and mainstream organisations with ongoing operations.
- Indonesian officials cite fears of terrorist attacks in defending Bali’s decision not to host the Israeli team matches, resulting in FIFA cancelling the tournament.
- Indonesia’s unwavering support for an independent Palestinian nation and the approaching 2024 elections further complicate matters.
- The probability of an attack is low to moderate, with the political opposition to Israel’s participation serving as a backdrop for political narratives leading up to the 2024 elections.
Indonesia’s terrorism expert, Noor Huda Ismail, has cautioned that Israel’s participation in the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia, scheduled for May this year, could potentially lead to terrorist attacks within the host nation. Noor Huda has identified three groups of concern, namely Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), and mainstream organisations with ongoing operations, and expressed concerns that terrorists could still find and exploit vulnerabilities despite security forces' efforts to enhance safety. Additionally, Indonesian officials have cited fears of terrorist attacks in defending Bali's decision not to host the Israeli team matches. As a result of Bali's rejection of Israel's participation, FIFA has stripped Indonesia as the host of the tournament and is expected to announce a new host soon, creating concerns over the country's football federation's (PSSI) future involvement in other FIFA tournaments and the possibility of facing sanctions and isolation on the global football stage.
Prior to the tournament's cancellation, President Joko Widodo, also known as Jokowi, received a visit from the Palestinian ambassador in what was viewed as an attempt to counter domestic opposition to Israel's participation in the tournament. However, considering the absence of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the high support for Palestine in Indonesia, the hosting of the Israeli team faced significant opposition. While Jakarta's top football envoy had set out to travel to Zurich to persuade FIFA not to revoke Indonesia's hosting rights for the game, the issue has become highly politicised in Indonesia, with the country's unwavering support for an independent Palestinian nation enshrined in its 1945 Constitution. Meanwhile, discussions about the potential postponement of the 2024 elections and how it could affect President Jokowi's term in office were circulating. Social media debates have only intensified the matter, raising the stakes for the election and further polarising the population.
Although JI’s emir Para Wijayanto's remained incarcerated since 2019, his leadership and ideology suggest that JI would refrain from using kinetic violence. Furthermore, JI has been distancing itself from violence in recent years, opting to gain legitimacy through the electoral process and infiltrating institutions. Therefore, the group is more likely to engage in protest demonstrations to gain public support. Conversely, JAD is perceived as more likely to execute an attack. However, the security environment is expected to be robust as Densus 88 has expanded its capabilities and resources. Moreover, given past foiled plots and attempted attacks on Israeli athletes worldwide, the Israeli government and international organisations have increased security measures to protect their athletes during international events. Consequently, the target would be too hardened for an attempted attack.
In conclusion, the probability of a successful attack can be assessed as low to moderate. However, the political opposition to Israel's participation in the tournament may have created a backdrop for competing political narratives leading up to the 2024 elections.