Indonesia: Terror Attack Hits Sumatra Police Station

Dina Febriastuti and Arie Firdaus
Pekanbaru, Indonesia and Jakarta
180516-ID-Riau-attack-1000.JPG The bodies of two suspects who were shot and killed are seen at the entrance of a police station in Pekanbaru, the capital of Indonesia's Riau province, following a terrorist attack, May 16, 2018.
Antara photo via Reuters

Updated at 3:24 p.m. ET on 2018-05-16

Four suspected terrorists and a police officer were killed Wednesday after a group attacked a police station in Riau province on Indonesia’s Sumatra island, officials said.

The incident, in which two other policemen and two journalists were injured, was the latest in a series of terror strikes to shake Indonesia this week.

“We are in a state of alert. We took decisive action and succeeded in deactivating four perpetrators. Then we secured some pieces of evidence,” Riau police spokesman Sunarto told journalists.

The other attacks included triple church bombings that killed at least a dozen victims and six perpetrators in Surabaya, East Java, and an attack on a police station in that city in which four suspected bombers died, authorities said. Two families with children as young as 8 and 9 carried out the earlier attacks, according to police.

The extremist group Islamic State claimed those attacks, while police in Riau said they believed that a homegrown organization aligned with IS had launched Wednesday’s raid. The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq news agency, according to SITE Intelligence Group, a service that monitors jihadist communications.


Attackers arrived at the police facility in a white minivan and rammed through a side gate, according to a police officer in Pekanbaru, the provincial capital, where the attack took place.

“After entering the yard of the regional police headquarters, a perpetrator wearing a mask got out and drew a samurai sword and attacked … injuring two policemen,” Riau police spokesman Sunarto told journalists.

A police officer struck by the van was rushed to hospital and declared dead moments later.

Police shot dead the swordsman and three others who got out of the van. The driver fled the scene but was later captured.

Two television journalists who were nearby preparing to cover the destruction of confiscated drugs also received sword injuries, Sunarto said.

The two policemen who were hacked were identified as Brigadier Jon Hendri, whose thumb was cut, and Police Commissioner Farid Abdullah, who was injured in the back of his head.

In Jakarta, national police spokesman Setyo Wasisto named the four slain terror suspects as Mursalim (alias Ical alias Pak Ngah), 42; Suwardi 28; Adi Sufiyan, 26; and Daud. Separately, Riau police chief Nandang said Mursalim was thought to be a member of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a local group linked to IS.

Police escort accused terrorist Syawaludin Pakpahan to North Jakarta District Court, May 16, 2018. [Photo Courtesy of Center for the Study of Radicalism and Deradicalization]
Police escort accused terrorist Syawaludin Pakpahan to North Jakarta District Court, May 16, 2018. [Photo Courtesy of Center for the Study of Radicalism and Deradicalization]


Militant sentenced

Meanwhile, in Jakarta, a man who fatally attacked a policeman in North Sumatra province a year ago was sentenced to 19 years in jail after being convicted under Indonesia’s anti-terrorism law.

“The defendant stabbed a police personnel in the chest repeatedly, resulting in death,” judge Jootje Sampaleng said in reading out the verdict.

In a change from procedures seen at recent terrorism trials, defendant Syawaludin Pakpahan, 43, arrived in court under tight security, with six police officers surrounding him and his legs and hands both bound.

Syawaludin was one of 155 inmates who was involved in a riot last week at a Mobile Brigade (Brimob) detention facility in Bogor, south of Jakarta. Five members of the security forces and one inmate died in the violence, which lasted some 30 hours and was claimed by IS.

On June 25, 2017, Syawaludin and one other man entered a police compound in North Sumatra and stabbed to death a police officer, then set the sentry post where they found him on fire.

The second attacker, named as Ardial, was shot dead as the two tried to attack another officer.

During court testimony, Syawaludin said he was inspired to act based on writing and lectures of jailed cleric Aman Abdurrahman that had been uploaded on the internet. According to U.S. authorities, he founded JAD, which is made up of about 24 pro-IS groups.

Abdurrahman is also currently on trial, for inspiring an IS-claimed attack in the Indonesian capital that left eight people dead in January 2016. The latest hearing of his trial was postponed after the riot, which took place in a different building of the facility where the cleric was being held.

Syawaludin fought in Syria for six months in 2013 as a member of the Free Syrian Army, battling the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an analyst with the Center for the Study of Radicalism and Deradicalization, a Jakarta think tank, told BenarNews earlier. He was the first Syria returnee to perpetrate violence in Indonesia, according to the analyst, Adhe Bhakti.

Syawaludin did not join the so-called Islamic State while in Syria but interacted with some of its members, and later declared allegiance to its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi after returning home to Indonesia, the analyst said.

Also Wednesday, in the city of Banten, just west of Jakarta, three individuals with suspected links to JAD were arrested at three separate locations, said Setyo Wasisto, the national police spokesman.

“We’re investigating now,” Setyo said. “But they are not from one family.”


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