Updated at 4:39 p.m. ET on 2019-11-18
Indonesian police said Monday they had arrested 43 people in their investigation into last week’s suicide bombing in North Sumatra, and that the bomber and many of the suspects had direct links with a local pro-Islamic State group.
Rabbial Muslim Nasution, 24, who carried out the Nov. 13 attack that injured six people outside the Medan city police headquarters, and his wife who is among the suspects in custody both belonged to a Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) militant cell, whose leader was also arrested in the probe, authorities said. Police identified Rabbial’s widow as well as the cell’s alleged leader by their initials only.
“D.A. and her husband were part of the JAD group led by Y. (also known as Anto)” national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told reporters in Jakarta. Police had initially described the bombing in Medan as a “lone-wolf” attack.
Twenty-one of the 43 suspects were believed to be JAD members operating in North Sumatra and Aceh, neighboring provinces on Sumatra island, and the other suspects were picked up during raids elsewhere in Indonesia, Dedi Said.
“They have direct links with the JAD network, which covers North Sumatra and Aceh,” he said.
In addition to the 43 in custody, members of the elite Densus 88 squad killed two suspected JAD bomb-makers on Saturday as the pair allegedly resisted arrest and tried to attack the officers during a counter-terror raid in Deli Serdang, a regency of North Sumatra, officials said.
“The two who died were skilled bomb-makers and they assembled the bomb used by R.M.N.,” Dedi told reporters, referring to Rabbial Muslim Nasution by his initials.
Some of the suspects linked to the Medan attack had undergone military training under Anto’s leadership on Mount Sibayak in Karo, another regency in North Sumatra, Dedi said, adding that they had also sworn their allegiance to the new overall leader of Islamic State (IS), Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi.
Four of the suspects turned themselves in after their families persuaded them to surrender to police, Dedi said.
Rabbial’s widow had communicated with Ika Puspitasari, a former Indonesian migrant worker in Hong Kong who has been serving a four-year term in a Medan prison since 2017 for helping fund militant plots to attack police targets on Java and Sumatra, Dedi said. Last week, police alleged that Rabbial’s wife had talked with a female inmate in Medan about plotting a terrorist attack on Bali island, Indonesia’s top tourist destination.
On Monday, Dedi said that the wife had helped Rabbial acquire materials for the bomb that he used in last week’s attack.
Police said that Rabbial set off an explosive belt outside the city police headquarters after passing through a routine security check at the entrance, injuring six people, including four officers. He was the lone fatality in the explosion.