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Fom left to right, Chief of Indonesian National Police Gen. Badrodin Haiti, Australian Attorney General George BrandisI, Indonesian top security minister Luhut Panjaitan, Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan and the head of Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency Sutiyoso pose for the media during a joint press conference after their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015. Indonesian police say they have foiled a suspected Muslim militant’s plot to carry out attacks during the year-end holiday season with help from the information from the U.S., Australian and Singaporean intelligence. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

News analysis: Between threat of radicalized IS supporters and homegrown terrorists

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http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/12/25/news-analysis-between-threat-radicalized-is-supporters-and-homegrown-terrorists.html

 

The influence of the Islamic State (IS) in Indonesia has become more apparent along with the rapid increase of radicalization within society since IS declared a caliphate in June 2014, the year that marked the rise of one of the most deadliest terror groups ever to exist.

By December 2015, about 800 Indonesians had been reported to have departed for Syria and Iraq, with 169 people being caught on the Turkey-Syria border and deported by the Turkish government, before these potential foreign fighters had the chance to join IS, according to the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).

However, the exact number of radicalized Indonesians returning from the conflict zones before Joko “Jokowi” Widodo took over the presidency on Oct. 20, 2014, is unknown. The former administration failed to keep track of Indonesians departing to join IS after the group announced that it would restore Allah’s rule on Earth through sharia.

Over the weekend, the National Police’s Densus 88 counterterrorism squad seized bomb-making equipment and arrested nine people across Java who were suspected of being among the more than 1,000 local IS supporters allegedly planning to attack government officials, including Jokowi and minority Shiite Muslims.

One of the homegrown terrorist groups, the Santoso-led East Indonesia Mujahidin based in Poso, Central Sulawesi, still poses a major threat to the government as the group was responsible for the killing of several police officers and local farmers in 2015 and has pledge allegiance to IS.

With national security at stake, counterterrorism forces are stepping up measures to protect the nation against possible militant attacks that have the potential to plunge the nation into violence.

Homegrown terrorist groups versus radicalized returnees

The history of homegrown radical Islamic groups dates back to the late 1940s, when Kartosuwiryo led the Islamic State of Indonesia (NII) movement, a radical group that led to the formation of the al-Qaeda affiliated Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) in 1993, a group responsible for the deadly 2002 Bali bombings.

Cracking down: Densus 88 counterterrorism squad members stand guard outside the residence of an alleged Islamic State movement supporter in South Tangerang, Banten, on Sunday. The police’s special force also arrested another four suspects in South Jakarta, Bekasi and Cibubur, West Java. JP/DONCracking down: Densus 88 counterterrorism squad members stand guard outside the residence of an alleged Islamic State movement supporter in South Tangerang, Banten, on Sunday. The police’s special force also arrested another four suspects in South Jakarta, Bekasi and Cibubur, West Java. JP/DON

Since JI’s charismatic leader Abu Bakar Ba’asyir was arrested in August 2010, experts believe that younger JI members separated from the group when senior members decided to lie low, as they believed that Indonesia was no longer a land for jihad.

This led to the rise of the East Indonesia Mujahidin – a terrorist group that allegedly created terror in Poso – led by the former JI members who are presently being hunted by 1,500 security personnel.

“From the perspective of human safety, the most dangerous are homegrown terrorist groups,” terrorist expert Rakyan Adibrata told thejakartapost.com.

With the threat of radicalized Indonesian returnees increasing over the past few months, Rakyan said it was actually homegrown terrorist groups that had initially spread radical ideology among members, leading them to depart as foreign terrorist fighters for IS only to return to be a threat to the nation.

Mujahidin shares the same vision as IS to establish an Islamic caliphate. However, Rakyan said, there was still romanticism among the group’s members about establishing their own caliphate in Poso as it was the location where they had previously been trained by al-Qaeda and the place where Santoso ran an extremist training camp.

Meanwhile, a terrorist expert from Yayasan Prasasti Perdamaian (YPP), Taufik Andrie, said radicalized Indonesian returnees posed a bigger threat to the nation as they could contribute to capacity building, networking and persuading homegrown terrorist groups to support IS.

Even though many homegrown terrorist groups such as Mujahidin promote dangerous ideology that includes use of violence to achieve their means, Taufik said that unlike IS, which hated all Western-influenced systems, these groups’ bigger enemies were mainly police and law enforcers.

“In Poso, like the Santoso-led group, they are more contextual as the group consists of people who have been involved in conflicts and suffered from injustice and violence,” Taufik said.

Similarly, a terrorist expert and former NII member, Al-Chaidar, said that besides fighting in its own way to establish a caliphate, Mujahidin was formed to take revenge for predecessor who were attacked by police and law enforcers during a Muslim-Christian conflict in Poso that claimed the lives of at least 1,000 people from 1998 to 2002.

“Mujahidin members still hold grudge toward Christians. They have not departed for Syria, but they are IS supports who are spread across Indonesia,” Al-Chaidar said.

Home to various radical Islamic groups, Indonesia has experienced terrorist attacks targeting public places for more than a decade. Since the deadly Bali attack, the police have managed to counter and destroy homegrown militant cells. However, the rise of IS has brought new challenges for them to improve their counterterrorism strategy once more.

Re-thinking new approaches to counter radicalization

During Jokowi’s presidency, the BNPT has adopted a softer de-radicalization approach to curb terrorism by emphasizing dialogue with captured or potential terrorists to reverse their radical thinking as it is believed to be more effective in countering the spread of radical ideology.

Fom left to right, Chief of Indonesian National Police Gen. Badrodin Haiti, Australian Attorney General George BrandisI, Indonesian top security minister Luhut Panjaitan, Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan and the head of Indonesia’s State Intelligence Agency Sutiyoso pose for the media during a joint press conference after their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015. Indonesian police say they have foiled a suspected Muslim militant’€™s plot to carry out attacks during the year-end holiday season with help from the information from the U.S., Australian and Singaporean intelligence. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

The influence of the Islamic State (IS) in Indonesia has become more apparent along with the rapid increase of radicalization within society since IS declared a caliphate in June 2014, the year that marked the rise of one of the most deadliest terror groups ever to exist.

By December 2015, about 800 Indonesians had been reported to have departed for Syria and Iraq, with 169 people being caught on the Turkey-Syria border and deported by the Turkish government, before these potential foreign fighters had the chance to join IS, according to the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).

However, the exact number of radicalized Indonesians returning from the conflict zones before Joko “Jokowi” Widodo took over the presidency on Oct. 20, 2014, is unknown. The former administration failed to keep track of Indonesians departing to join IS after the group announced that it would restore Allah’s rule on Earth through sharia.

Over the weekend, the National Police’s Densus 88 counterterrorism squad seized bomb-making equipment and arrested nine people across Java who were suspected of being among the more than 1,000 local IS supporters allegedly planning to attack government officials, including Jokowi and minority Shiite Muslims.

One of the homegrown terrorist groups, the Santoso-led East Indonesia Mujahidin based in Poso, Central Sulawesi, still poses a major threat to the government as the group was responsible for the killing of several police officers and local farmers in 2015 and has pledge allegiance to IS.

With national security at stake, counterterrorism forces are stepping up measures to protect the nation against possible militant attacks that have the potential to plunge the nation into violence.

Homegrown terrorist groups versus radicalized returnees

The history of homegrown radical Islamic groups dates back to the late 1940s, when Kartosuwiryo led the Islamic State of Indonesia (NII) movement, a radical group that led to the formation of the al-Qaeda affiliated Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) in 1993, a group responsible for the deadly 2002 Bali bombings.

Cracking down: Densus 88 counterterrorism squad members stand guard outside the residence of an alleged Islamic State movement supporter in South Tangerang, Banten, on Sunday. The police'€™s special force also arrested another four suspects in South Jakarta, Bekasi and Cibubur, West Java. JP/DONCracking down: Densus 88 counterterrorism squad members stand guard outside the residence of an alleged Islamic State movement supporter in South Tangerang, Banten, on Sunday. The police’€™s special force also arrested another four suspects in South Jakarta, Bekasi and Cibubur, West Java. JP/DON

Since JI’s charismatic leader Abu Bakar Ba’asyir was arrested in August 2010, experts believe that younger JI members separated from the group when senior members decided to lie low, as they believed that Indonesia was no longer a land for jihad.

This led to the rise of the East Indonesia Mujahidin – a terrorist group that allegedly created terror in Poso – led by the former JI members who are presently being hunted by 1,500 security personnel.

“From the perspective of human safety, the most dangerous are homegrown terrorist groups,” terrorist expert Rakyan Adibrata told thejakartapost.com.

With the threat of radicalized Indonesian returnees increasing over the past few months, Rakyan said it was actually homegrown terrorist groups that had initially spread radical ideology among members, leading them to depart as foreign terrorist fighters for IS only to return to be a threat to the nation.

Mujahidin shares the same vision as IS to establish an Islamic caliphate. However, Rakyan said, there was still romanticism among the group’s members about establishing their own caliphate in Poso as it was the location where they had previously been trained by al-Qaeda and the place where Santoso ran an extremist training camp.

Meanwhile, a terrorist expert from Yayasan Prasasti Perdamaian (YPP), Taufik Andrie, said radicalized Indonesian returnees posed a bigger threat to the nation as they could contribute to capacity building, networking and persuading homegrown terrorist groups to support IS.

Even though many homegrown terrorist groups such as Mujahidin promote dangerous ideology that includes use of violence to achieve their means, Taufik said that unlike IS, which hated all Western-influenced systems, these groups’ bigger enemies were mainly police and law enforcers.

“In Poso, like the Santoso-led group, they are more contextual as the group consists of people who have been involved in conflicts and suffered from injustice and violence,” Taufik said.

Similarly, a terrorist expert and former NII member, Al-Chaidar, said that besides fighting in its own way to establish a caliphate, Mujahidin was formed to take revenge for predecessor who were attacked by police and law enforcers during a Muslim-Christian conflict in Poso that claimed the lives of at least 1,000 people from 1998 to 2002.

“Mujahidin members still hold grudge toward Christians. They have not departed for Syria, but they are IS supports who are spread across Indonesia,” Al-Chaidar said.

Home to various radical Islamic groups, Indonesia has experienced terrorist attacks targeting public places for more than a decade. Since the deadly Bali attack, the police have managed to counter and destroy homegrown militant cells. However, the rise of IS has brought new challenges for them to improve their counterterrorism strategy once more.

Re-thinking new approaches to counter radicalization

During Jokowi’s presidency, the BNPT has adopted a softer de-radicalization approach to curb terrorism by emphasizing dialogue with captured or potential terrorists to reverse their radical thinking as it is believed to be more effective in countering the spread of radical ideology.

Members of Indonesian Police bomb squad search for suspicious materials as they anticipate terror attacks prior to the Christmas Eve mass at the Cathedral in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Dec. 24,2015. The Indonesian government has deployed around 150,000 security personnel across the country to safeguard churches,airports and other public places, as officials believe a credible threat of terrorist attacks remains in the year-end holiday season in this predominantly Muslim nation, especially against minority Christians. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

However in Rakyan’s view, the government should try a new approach by adopting psychological and medical perspectives to better assess the thinking of radicalized Indonesian returnees, as they share similarities with soldiers newly returned from conflict zones and suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“While soldiers may kill themselves or shoot a friend, a jihadist who suffers from PTSD may think his home country is enemy territory and everything before his eyes should be killed,” Rakyan said.

Similarly, Taufik said that both radicalized Indonesian returnees who had been deported back home and IS supports who could not depart to join IS might experience frustration as they did not get the chance to wage jihad in Syria, resulting in the potential spreading of radical ideology or activities.

“They become a threat because they can move freely among citizens,” Taufik said.

A similar approach should be implemented by the BNPT to counter the intensified dissemination of terrorist groups’ propaganda through the internet and social media, Rakyan said, as the current counter-narrative measures taken by the BNPT through its online platform called “Peaceful Year in Cyberspace” had been deemed weak and ineffective in preventing radicalization.

According to Rakyan, counter-narrative measures against the IS campaign in Indonesia were instead actively taken by other radical groups that are against forming an IS caliphate, such as Jabhat al-Nusra and senior members of JI who were against IS but still wanted to establish a caliphate in Indonesia.

“In the end, this will bring much the same result. Either members of the public who empathize with IS will not believe the group anymore or they will join Jabhat al-Nusra or other non-IS rebels,” said Rakyan.

Indonesia should engage moderate groups to actively take counter-narrative measures in their respective areas, Rakyan said, while at the same time cooperate with internet service providers to tackle radicalization through the internet.

Australia adopted this method, Rakyan said, as the government engaged all moderate groups in the country to create counter-narrative measures in cooperation with giant search engine Google and it had been very effective in curbing the spread of radical ideology.

“When people search keywords related to IS and other radical groups, page 1 and 2 in Google will display counter-narrative measures instead of information on those groups,” said Rakyan.

Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) director Sidney Jones also told thejakartapost.com recently that various radical media outlets disseminated IS propaganda by re-making videos or audio statements in Indonesian and spreading the links through the internet every day, making effective use of Indonesia as the fourth leading Facebook user in the world with over 84 percent of users active Twitter users by 2014.

BNPT deputy for international relations Insp. Gen. Petrus Reinhard Golose said he had addressed this issue, adding that the counter-terrorism body looked forward to cooperating with other countries to closely monitor websites in order to curb the spread of radicalism through the internet.

Potential radical group attacks, new method adopted

With IS now having thousands of supporters across Indonesia as well as other radical groups such as Mujahidin, experts have warned that the threat of terrorist attacks in December 2015 could be bigger and different from previous years.

Fleeing in fear: This image made from video taken in August last year shows Iraqis from the Yazidi community arriving in Irbil in northern Iraq after Islamic militants attacked the towns of Sinjar and Zunmar. Around 40,000 people crossed the bridge of Shela in Fishkhabur into the Northern Kurdish Region of Iraq, after being given an ultimatum by Islamic militants to convert to Islam, pay a security tax, leave their homes, or die. (Poto: AP)

Taufik said that while previously churches and Christian groups were the main targets of radical Islamic groups, threats of terrorist attacks this year were posed by more diverse groups that had different views of perceived enemies, as there were those who intended to attack government officials and minority Shiite Muslims also.

Counterterrorism forces succeeded in arresting nine suspected Muslim militants who were allegedly planning bomb attacks in towns across Java last weekend, with four of them suspected of being JI members.

However, as the National Police spokesperson said the force had captured “only subordinates” of a network of IS supporters, Taufik said supporters who escaped the raids could be more dangerous as they would strive to finish what their accomplices started.

“Right now the threats are IS supporters and those affiliated with Aman Abdurahman [vocal Indonesian promoter of IS],” said Taufik.

Meanwhile, Rakyan warned that IS might launch sporadic attacks instead of centralized bombings, with possible active shooters assigned to create terror in public places or at religious sites.

Citing the Paris attack, the deadliest attack on French soil since World War II that IS claimed responsibility for, Rakyan said that simultaneous coordinated terrorist attacks could become a rather effective method to distract government and security officials.

“Imagine five shooters at five malls in Jakarta and mass shootings happening simultaneously. This is a bigger danger and would create mass fear equal to that caused by the Paris attack and Bali bombings,” said Rakyan.

Even though the trade-off between security and human rights is often debated, Rakyan said that in order to strengthen early detection capabilities, people entering malls, airports and other public places should be thoroughly searched.

Meanwhile in Poso, Al-Chaidar said the East Indonesia Mujahidin members were likely to launch terrorist attacks during Christmas, even though the scale might not be large as they would try to avoid detection as security officials hunt for their leader, Santoso.

However, Al-Chaidar said that Mujahidin’s threat to attack National Police headquarters and the State Palace was a bluff, as it was a method it often used to divert attention.

“In the past, Mujahidin once threatened to attack Makassar, but it ended up attacking the Poso police,” said Al-Chaidar.

In order to ensure safe Christmas and New Year celebrations, the National Police have deployed 150,000 officers to safe-guard churches and other public places around the country, as well as strengthen security and surveillance in a number of areas to prevent terrorist attacks.

“The government’s preparations [to secure Christmas and New Year] are sufficient, but still we need to encourage members of the public to report anything suspicious to security officials,” Rakyan added. (dan)

Arabian Gulf countries should work together to fight growing drug trade, experts say

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http://www.thenational.ae/uae/arabian-gulf-countries-should-work-together-to-fight-growing-drug-trade-experts-say

ABU DHABI // The number of terrorists using the Arabian Gulf to launder drug-trafficking money is on the rise and countries in the region should reinforce the sharing of their intelligence and train local police forces to prevent smugglers from succeeding, experts say.

Johan Obdola, the president of the International Organisation for Security and Intelligence, visited the UAE to meet its police forces.

He wanted to spread the message that the UAE and the region were targets for such criminals, or so-called narco-terrorists.

Mr Obdola said there were several narco-terrorist groups from south and central America and Mexico that were doing a lot of drug trafficking in west Africa.

“The new routes that they are developing involve the GCC,” he said, adding there were members of Colombian and Mexican criminal gangs in the UAE to supply the demand or increase it for money laundering.

“It’s becoming a bit of a problem here,” said Mr Obdola.

The traffickers are using submarines to transport drugs and weapons to west Africa.

“They can go down to 10 metres and they can be used as a strategic weapon against oil or gas facilities offshore,” he said.

“It’s very hard to track them on radar and there’s now another interesting emerging route between Argentina and Brazil to Qatar.”

The UAE’s economic development is drawing the interest of such groups.

“So you have very powerful criminal organisations looking into it,” he said.

“It’s a matter of identifying what would be the immediate and long-term threat to the UAE’s homeland security.

“These people are very smart, they know how to penetrate any country and they’re looking at this area now, especially in the last three to four years.”

Mr Obdola said he received information that a well-known Mexican drug lord, who had established his operation in Argentina and had worked in China, was “now working on Qatar and the whole GCC”.

“They invest in real estate, more than using it as a hub for drugs, but they’re expanding,” he said.

Mr Obdola met with Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, the president of Dubai Civil Aviation, to discuss the threat.

He said police in Abu Dhabi and Dubai were doing a good job of fighting drug trafficking, “but when you face something unknown, you have to be prepared”.

“Narco-terrorists are very subtle but very aggressive and, although the Gulf is a tougher region because everything is very clean and clear here, it’s not impossible for them, especially now with Expo 2020,” he said.

Dr Firuz Yasamis, the director of diplomacy at the American University in the Emirates, said countries in the region should work together in fighting the drug trade.

He said drug trafficking could become economically significant in the region.

“It’s something I see happening in the near future,” said Dr Yasamis. “This region is a channel of transit from the Far East to Africa for alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and human trafficking as a source of income for these terrorists.”

Arabian Gulf governments should establish a cooperative regional organisation, he said.

“Security begins with intelligence,” he said. “If you don’t have any good and secure intelligence services, they [countries] will be disarmed by the very powerful international mafia.

“These people are working and running around and somebody should say no to them.”

As such, airport security was more important than ever, said Nauman Arshad, the chief executive of Xellerix, a Dubai-based company that provides advanced electronic security systems.

“For the Middle East, I’ve always felt that the UAE led the region in terms of innovation, security and stability, so I think they’re falling in line with the vision they set,” he said.

Mr Obdola said: “What happens depends on the response from the government and the security forces. They need to share information and process it because the new frontier is the UAE.”

cmalek@thenational.ae

No repeat of authoritarianism, please

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Original Article: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2016/03/01/no-repeat-authoritarianism-please.html

Rakyan Adibrata

The Jakarta Post

Indonesian anti-terror army troops take part in an exercise to help police fight terrorist groups. (Antara/Basri Marzuki)

In times of conflict, the law should not fall silent. And with the new, tougher anti-terrorism law currently before the House of Representatives, the question remaining before us is no longer one of silence but of what kind of law.

In the wake of Jakarta’€™s January 14 terrorist attack, arguments for strengthening the existing counterterrorism legislation are clearly sound as the hastily prepared Law No. 15/2003 does have weaknesses. Overseas military training, foreign terrorist fighters, the Islamic State (IS) phenomenon and preparatory acts of terrorism are a few of the country’€™s worries. They need to be addressed urgently as the nature of Indonesian terrorism has changed and security risks continue to evolve. Here pundits and politicians agree. But this time urgent should not be synonymous with haste.

The devil in details of the new draft revision for the counterterrorism law lies in at least two significant issues: intelligence coordination and extended powers for law-enforcement officers.

Intelligence gathering and coordination for counterterrorism is not properly regulated in the existing laws. Though counterterrorism intelligence is coordinated by the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) as stipulated in the proposed draft, based on the Intelligence Bill it is the State Intelligence Agency (BIN) that has the authority to coordinate all intelligence information and agencies. In practice, the National Police have played a pivotal role but its efforts have been relatively independent. The recent Jakarta attack exposed ample shortcomings and lessons to be learned. In the broader national security context, early terrorism warning mechanisms could be enhanced through better coordination among intelligence agencies.

I cannot stress this enough as the new draft includes provisions that would allow Indonesian citizens found to have participated in military training or war here or overseas to be deprived of both their passports and their citizenship. Police need to coordinate with the military, intelligence bodies and Immigration to make this effective. In a post-Snowden and WikiLeaks world, intelligence sharing should not just be laws but norms in the fight against terrorism.

For intelligence gathering purposes, the new draft also appears to provide security agencies with the authority to detain and interrogate terror suspects based on suspicion alone and without necessarily contemplating filing criminal charges. Based on changes to articles 25 and 28 in the draft, the police can detain a suspect for up to 390 days and prosecutors can then hold the same person for a further 150 days. A terror suspect can thus be detained for up to 540 days without legal certainty. Such a practice could be regarded as a form of arbitrary detention and speaks volumes on the position of human rights in the draft. Presumption of innocence is officially out the window.

Terrorising suspected terrorists in reality has not been proven to be an effective counterterrorism measure. From other countries’€™ experiences, we know it only enflames the backlash at the government and provides the needed justification for radicals to continue waging jihad against perceived tyrannical governments that they consider illegitimate, particulalry if supported by Western countries. Repression indeed begets resistance. Suharto’€™s New Order produced Indonesia’€™s most potent terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah with excessive security measures giving birth to vengeance and more radicals.

Although we may perceive terror suspects as wanton and gratuitously violent people, we cannot run from the fact that they are also citizens who have rights that should be protected by the law. But if we throw a terror suspect into legal limbo, or enact counterterrorism measures that don’€™t respect the law, we will have our own Guantanamo. Trust in the law and the legal system it works through, however imperfect they may be, is what separates us from terrorists. The ring of Gyges should not be given to any shepherds around the hamlet and nor need anyone enter a Hobbesian contract with the state. We have learned the hard way in the past that extensive power is often authoritarianism in disguise.

Fear is the most potent of political weapons for the terrorists. And we are no better than the terrorists themselves when we foster among the public an atmosphere of alienation, fear and suspicion, which they thrive on anyway. Once we remove presumption of innocence, violence resumes. American revolutionary leader and former US president John Adams has it right: If innocence itself is brought to the bar and condemned, it would be the end of security whatsoever. Let’€™s not repeat our mistakes in the name of security lest we get condemned by history. (+)

___________________________________
Rakyan Adibrata
Regional representative for the International Organization for Security and Intelligence (IOSI)

Drug-cartels-eyeing-GCC-warns-ex-Venezuelan-police-chief_StoryPicture

Drug cartels eyeing GCC, warns ex-Venezuelan police chief

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Read more: http://www.muscatdaily.com/Archive/Oman/Drug-cartels-eyeing-GCC-warns-ex-Venezuelan-police-chief-4w4z

Muscat –

Former Venezuelan police commissioner Johan Obdola has seen the danger of drug cartels from around the world, and now he’s warning that they are looking to penetrate the GCC.

Obdola, the president and founder of the International Organization for Security and Intelligence (IOSI), was recently in Muscat to give expertise at the ‘CyberSense 2016’ cybersecurity conference. “There’s money here. Every criminal organisation would love to put their foot here,” he said in an interview. “It’s very attractive.”

Obdola’s own life story tells the threat of drug cartels.

Despite being a police officer, in 1997, Obdola had to flee his country and seek refuge in Canada due to the rise of the cartels. They had infiltrated the army, judiciary and politics. Obdola had been investigating them, and he went too far.

“The drug cartels were getting very strong. They killed a few of my officers, and in Venezuela at that time, that was very weird.

“Even myself, I was shot at a few times. They tried to kill me many times, they tried to bribe me many times.”

Obdola says he was the chief of anti-narcotics at the time, and was pursing Cartel del Sol, ‘Cartel of the Sun’, which was tied to the Venezuelan military. “The chiefs of that cartel were active generals of the national guard,” Obdola said. “I started looking. I conducted many successful anti-narcotics operations – 700 kilos, 2,000 kilos, airplanes, everything. And then they started hitting me back very hard.”

Now, with IOSI, Obdola helps advise and train governments to combat the threat. In the GCC, Obdola says drugs are smuggled by ship cargo or air. This can be cocaine, crack cocaine, heroin, or so-called synthetic ‘smart drugs’.

According to him, the drugs start from Latin America and transit in West Africa, before heading to the Middle East.

Obdola says it’s not just about the cartels themselves, but their links to militant groups – known as narcoterrorism. “We are looking at Africa as the nexus of narcoterrorism. Criminal groups and drug cartels from Latin America working along with Al Qaeda or other radical groups in Africa moving drugs,” he said.

It’s not just about smuggling. These groups will create front companies which hide the flow of money. It’s a cautionary note for a country like Oman that wants to open up for tourism and promote foreign investment.

“Wherever there’s a market, wherever there’s a flourishing tourist industry, there are opportunities and ways that they will be looking to get into,” Obdola said. “We believe already that in this region we have operatives from Latin America. They do business, there’s many ways for them to come over.”

And the reason Obdola was in Oman was for another threat: Cybercrime. Instead of exerting the effort to smuggle and sell drugs, cartels are using the Internet to extort money. Obdola said it is now even more serious than drugs. For example, cartels can develop software that can penetrate banking systems.

“They are diversifying their business. Now you have structured criminal entities and narcoterrorist entities getting into this business,” he said.

Obdola recommends Oman to continue coordination and information sharing with other countries to help combat the threat. “If the problem is not really concerning yet, Oman has to be on very high alert, because these guys are looking already to establish something stronger in this region.”

Read more: http://www.muscatdaily.com/Archive/Oman/Drug-cartels-eyeing-GCC-warns-ex-Venezuelan-police-chief-4w4z#ixzz4a6e0Dym3
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