Detachment 88 was formed after the 2002 Bali bombing and became operational in 2003. Detachment 88 has disrupted the activities of Central Java-based Islamist movement Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and many of its top operatives have been arrested or killed. Abu Dujana, suspected leader of JI's military wing and its possible emir, was apprehended on June 9, 2007. Azahari Husin was shot and killed in 2005. Detachment 88 is assisted by foreign agencies, including the Australian Federal Police, in forensic sciences including DNA analysis, and communications monitoring. In pre-emptive strikes in Java, the unit thwarted attack plans to material assembly.
In 2007, Detachment 88 arrested and interrogated West Papuan human rights lawyer, Iwangin Sabar Olif, and charged him with incitement and insulting the head of state, because he sent an SMS text message critical of the Indonesian military and president. Detachment 88's operations include using US intelligence officers in its Jakarta headquarters to tap the phone calls and read the SMS text messages of Indonesian civilians.
According to Brig. Gen. Pranowo, the Indonesian Police Headquarter Anti-Terror Director, the number '88' is taken from the number of Australian fatalities in the 2002 Bali bombing, the largest number from a single country.
This special unit is being funded by the US government through its State Department's Diplomatic Security Service. The unit is currently being trained in Megamendung, 50 km south of Jakarta, by CIA, FBI, and US Secret Service. Most of these instructors were ex-US special forces personnel.
Detachment 88 is designed to become an anti-terrorist unit that is capable to counter various terrorist threats, from bomb threats to hostage situations. This 400-personnel strong special force went to full operation in 2005. They consist of investigators, explosive experts, and an attack unit that includes snipers.
Detachment 88 is equipped with US weaponry and assault vehicles, such as Colt M-4 assault rifles, Armalite AR-10 sniper rifles, and Remington 870 shotguns. It is reported, although has not been confirmed yet, that this unit will have its own C-130 Hercules military transport airplane to increase its mobility. All the equipments, including their training materials, reportedly are exactly the same as those of US anti-terrorist units.