MIT: A Sensible Option for Indonesian IS Supporters Striving for the “Cause”

Evidence from the shootout that led to the death of Ali Kalora and Jaka Ramadhan. Credit: Poskota Sulteng/Rendy

Article provided by Kreasi Prasasti Perdamaian, a partner of


After a long, extensive hunt, the leader of the East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), Ali Kalora, was finally shot dead by the Madago Raya Task Force in Poso, Central Sulawesi. During this confrontation, another MIT member, Jaka Ramadhan alias Ikrima, was also slain. Jaka is from Pandeglang, Banten and was one of the deportees who failed to join the Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Jaka’s recruitment into MIT would have been a long, difficult process as he would not only have to travel from Pandeglang to Poso but also the difficulties in linking up with Ali Kalora’s group.

How exactly Jaka was able to do so will likely remain a mystery as he is no longer present. However, based on MIT’s history, we can draw inferences on how MIT can draw supporters throughout Indonesia.

The Three Phases of MIT’s Narratives

As someone who was actively involved in MIT’s struggle, I surmised MIT has undergone three phases in its narratives since its establishment, namely:

Phase 1: Training

MIT likely began training its members at the end of 2011. The initial participants were muhajirs (migrants) from the Umar Bin Khotob Islamic boarding school, Bima, and local ikhwans (brothers) from Poso. These so-called muhajirs were ustadz and students who were fleeing a raid by authorities due to an explosion that occurred inside the boarding school. How individuals from Bima became involved in Poso is another story.

In the initial stages, training was well-organized. First, training was mandatory for those who had permanent jobs in the villages or city of Poso. Based on their batches’ schedules, participants will regularly attend week-long trainings every month at Gunung Biru (Blue Mountain), Poso. To escape detection from authorities, participants must continue their jobs. Further assisting them is the support from the community in Poso whose majority is seemingly favourable of such activities. Consequently, this training programme was not easily detectable as the training in Aceh in late 2009 to early 2010.

Phase 2: Resistance Group

The training phase transited to a narrative of resistance through three events. Triggering this change was due to the group’s belief that they ready to start their violent challenge on authorities. This was based on the spread of their training alumni and pouring of support from regions outside of Poso, particularly from Java and Bima. Training alumni were expected to raise funds and provide logistical support for those who were based at Gunung Biru. Fundraising entailed either peaceful or violent means. Additionally, alumni were expected to one day take action in areas outside of Poso to divert the authorities focus on the group there. At first glance, these seemed logical and well-thought. However, as elaborated later, the group encountered many unexpected incidents.

The first event triggering a change in narratives was a letter by the group challenging Densus 88 to open confrontations at Gunung Biru. It was in this letter, dated October 14, 2012 or 28 Dzulqo’dah 1433 H, that the group first referred to themselves as Mujahidin Indonesia Timur(MIT).

Shortly after the letter was circulated, the group continued its resistance with a hostage taking attempt that ended with the execution of two Security Intelligence Unit members from Poso’s regional police on 16 October 2012. Third, at the end of December 2012, the group attacked a police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) team from Central Sulawesi patrolling the Kalora Village, Poso Pesisir District, Poso Regency. This attack resulted in the deaths of three Brimob officers. Sympathizers of “jihad” movements in Indonesia were divided on the change in narratives. While some backed off and withdrew their support, others became more enthusiastic and eager to get involved.

Phase 3: International Propaganda

In early 2013, my friend in MIT informed me that MIT Press (MIT’s media wing) was producing a video that would be sent to Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF) for release under “Shoutul Jihad Nusantara (SJN).” GIMF is Al Qaeda’s (AQ) official global media wing that promotes official releases from small similar-minded groups that have yet to develop their own international media wing. Meanwhile, SJN was intended to be GIMF’s Indonesian/Malay language section dedicated to extremist groups in Southeast Asia.

The purpose of the video, released by GIMF in early April 2014, was to primarily gain international recognition while attracting new sympathizers. Two months after the video’s release, my friend was killed in a shootout with the authorities. Within this short time, I saw the impact of video such as a member of the Al Busyro Forum wanting to donate money and necessary items.

Subsequent Affiliation with IS

Their gaining of notoriety coincided with the establishment of IS which garnered global support from extremists including in Indonesia. As the number of Indonesian IS supporters rose rapidly, it was an opportune time for MIT to change its strategy to strengthen itself.

In the final moments before my arrest, I was requested from MIT to process a video recording of its members pledging allegiance to Al Baghdadi, the leader of IS. In the accompanying statement, MIT highlighted the immediate need for this pledge so that the direction of its struggles becomes clearer for its supporters. By doing so, MIT would also avoid the sin of not pledging allegiance to a Muslim leader who had enforced Islamic law in territories IS controlled.

The statement also highlighted MIT’s desires to be under IS and hopes for their assistance in the form of personnel, weapons or funds. We, at the Al Busyro Forum, helped develop the Arabic and English subtitles for the video and statement.

However, most IS supporters only knew of the allegiance because the video appeared in one of IS propaganda video. Most did not know of the statement by MIT’s leadership (Santoso) which expressed the group’s hopes for IS to “return the favour” for MIT’s pledging of allegiance to IS. This also implicitly meant Santoso wanted the support from Indonesia’s IS supporters. Additionally, it was hoped that Al Baghdadi gave explicit instructions for IS supporters to assist MIT.

However, the reality was that Indonesian IS supporters preferred to emigrate to Syria rather than assist MIT despite knowing of the group’s allegiance to IS. This was only natural as assisting MIT will lead to being subjected to terrorism charges. Emigrating to Syria was believed to be a safer option.

As IS began to lose its territories, senior members called for those who were previously unsuccessful from emigrating to carry out attacks in their respective countries. This call seemingly led many to either help or join MIT.

MIT Becoming the Pride of IS Supporters

In recent developments, MIT has become the sole pride of IS supporters as it is the only violent extremist group that still exists, possesses a wide area of operations, and can create issues for Indonesia. The amount of support is evident on the social media accounts of its supporters. Though the small-scale, sporadic attacks conducted by IS supporters were praised by supporters, none were comparable to praises for MIT.

Considering these developments, Jaka Ramadhan’s joining with MIT after failing to emigrate in Syria is a sensible choice for Indonesian IS supporters to participate in armed conflict for the cause.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of STRAT.O.SPHERE CONSULTING PTE LTD.

This article is published under a Creative Commons Licence. Republications minimally require 1) credit authors and their institutions, and 2) credit to STRAT.O.SPHERE CONSULTING PTE LTD  and include a link back to either our home page or the article URL.


  • Arif Budi Setyawan is an active advocate for peace and tolerance in Indonesia having abandoned violence. He is now an active contributor at

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