The Memo: 10 Apr—16 Apr 2023

The Memo's latest issue summarises significant security news from Apr 10—16, 2023: ongoing counterterrorism efforts in the Philippines, an anti-terrorism clash in Indonesia, failed attack in Japan, and unrest in Sudan.

The Memo: 10 Apr—16 Apr 2023

In brief:

  • Militants continue to pose security risks in the Philippines; however, a positive development in dismantling the Abu Sayyaf Group through the surrender of members.
  • Jemaah Islamiyah still has the capabilities to operate and plan attacks.
  • Attack on Japanese Prime Minister raises concerns about political security.
  • Personal rivalry between the Sudanese Armed Forces commander and Rapid Support Forces chief triggered violence in Sudan, potentially threatening the country's stability.

1. Counterterrorism updates in Indonesia and the Philippines

i. Philippines

Unidentified gunmen attacked a police barracks in the town of Tipo-Tipo, located in Basilan province, southern Philippines, injuring a police officer. The attackers shot at the barracks before fleeing the area. It remains unclear how they managed to enter the town without being detected. While no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, it is known that both the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Dawlah Islamiya are active in the region. Separately, two ASG members, Adzhar Usman Langkang and Karasan Turabin Anta, surrendered to the military in the same province and turned over two rifles and ammunition.

Meanwhile, the police in the National Capital Region arrested Salahuddin Alpin, who was suspected of being an ASG member, after 13 years in hiding. Alpin, who had been working as a construction worker, was taken into custody on a warrant of arrest for murder and attempted murder issued by a court in Zamboanga City in 2009. During a search, the police found a pistol, a magazine with live rounds, and a hand grenade in Alpin’s backpack.

Why does it matter: The attack on the police barracks serves as a reminder of the persistent security risks faced by the Philippines, which has been grappling with Islamist militant groups for decades. Nevertheless, the surrender of the two ASG members is a positive development in the government's aim to dismantle the group and prevent future attacks. It may inspire other members to leave their violent ways and reintegrate into society. Additionally, the arrest of a suspected ASG member who had been in hiding for 13 years demonstrates the government's determination and ability to track individuals suspected of terrorist activities.

ii. Indonesia

Indonesia's counterterrorism force, Densus 88, was involved in a shootout with six suspected Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) members armed with self-assembled firearms in Sumatra, resulting in the death of two of the suspects and injury to a police officer. The incident occurred at two locations in Lampung province. Zulkarnaen, a former high-ranking member of the group who was previously arrested by Densus 88 in 2020, reportedly taught members how to assemble firearms. Densus 88 is continuing its search for other suspects involved in the shootout.

Why it matters: The fact that JI members were still able to assemble firearms despite a senior member's arrest is concerning and shows that terrorist groups in Indonesia are still able to operate and plan attacks. The continued search for other suspects involved in the shootout underscores the ongoing threat posed by militant groups in Indonesia and the importance of maintaining robust counterterrorism efforts in the country to sustain security pressure on threat actors.

2. Notable incidents in East Asia

The Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, has vowed to increase security measures as foreign officials visit the country following an incident where a smoke bomb was thrown at him. During a public event in Wakayama, Kishida was evacuated safely after an object was thrown, and a loud noise followed. The 24-year-old suspect, Ryuji Kimura, who was arrested at the scene, was found to be carrying a knife and a possible second explosive device. This rare incident has raised concerns about political security in Japan, particularly after the killing of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the campaign trail last year.

Why it matters: The attack on the Japanese Prime Minister has raised concerns about the security of political leaders, especially following the assassination of ex-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his campaign last year. The use of a smoke bomb and a potential explosive device in the recent attack emphasises that the risks to Japanese leaders cannot be ignored. It highlights the need for proper security measures to be in place and the importance of being prepared for any potential threats. This event serves as a reminder of the potential dangers that accompany significant events and the necessity of prioritising security preparedness.

3. Developments in north-eastern Africa

The Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) clashed in Khartoum and other cities, with fighting taking place in critical locations such as the Presidential Palace, military headquarters, and public broadcaster. The conflict arose from months of disagreements over power-sharing arrangements, with both sides blaming each other for the violence. The crisis began in 2019, after nationwide protests against former President Omar al-Bashir, and has been worsened by a personal rivalry between SAF commander Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and RSF chief Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemeti. The main point of contention is the integration of the RSF into the military.

Why it matters: The violence poses a threat to the stability of the country and could potentially escalate into a wider conflict. The fighting began on Saturday and killed at least 56 civilians, and any further escalation may lead to another civil war.

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