World leaders joined the Indonesian president Thursday in condemning a terrorist attack that left three policemen dead outside a busy bus terminal in the Jakarta area.
No militant group has taken responsibility for the Wednesday night attack, but Indonesian officials pointed to a potential Islamic State (IS) link without releasing details. Two suspected bombers were also killed and 10 other people were injured in the worst terrorist attack on the Indonesian capital since January 2016.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called for a thorough probe into the circumstances leading to the attack, which a Malaysian government leader said could be linked to the recent death of a regional IS leader based in Syria.
“It was outrageous. Motorcycle-taxi and public transportation drivers, street vendors and policemen are the victims,” Jokowi told reporters in Solo, Central Java, on Thursday morning.
“I have ordered the national police chief to thoroughly investigate the perpetrators’ cell networks. Hunt them down to their roots,” he said, urging the public to remain calm.
In neighboring Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak posted a message of support on Facebook.
“Malaysians stand with the Indonesian people at this time,” he said. “Coming so soon after the appalling Manchester [England] bombing, this new outrage shows that terrorism has no borders and knows no race or creed. My thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of those affected.”
Najib said the region would end up stronger.
“Even as the terrorists try to intimidate us, we must not fear them. Each atrocity must harden our resolve. Now more than ever is the time to be united, even as violent extremism seeks to divide us,” he said.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he spoke to Jokowi and pledged to strengthen his country’s support of Indonesia.
Users of social media also condemned the attacks, using Twitter hashtags #KamiTidakTakut (“We are not afraid”) and #PrayForJakarta to get their messages across. Those tags topped trending lists on Thursday.
Following an attack claimed by Islamic State in central Jakarta in January 2016 that killed eight people, including four suspects, social media users adopted similar hashtags to show their defiance and outrage, along with support and solidarity for the victims.
Investigators found backpacks, aluminum slabs, buckshot and other suspected bomb-making materials at the scene, National Police spokesman Inspector Gen. Setyo Wasisto told reporters on Thursday.
Police also found a receipt for a pressure cooker in the pocket of one of the bombers blamed for the latest attack that took place around 9 p.m. Wednesday outside the Kampung Melayu bus terminal in East Jakarta.
Officials released little information about the bombers, noting their initials were A.S. and I.N.S. Setyo said the pair, who set off their explosives minutes apart, targeted police.
“The perpetrators are still under investigation. Please be patient, we will release the information when we have more details,” Setyo told reporters, adding that police were checking for DNA matches and connections to terror networks to positively identify them.
Members of Densus 88, the nation’s elite counter terror squad, raided the suspects’ homes on Thursday, according to media reports
Setyo linked Wednesday’s attack to a park bombing earlier this year in West Java province.
“Investigators found evidence showing similarities with an incident in Bandung a while ago,” Setyo said referring to an explosion in a public park in the capital city of West Java province on Feb. 27. No one was injured when Yayat Cahyadi, 42, detonated a pressure cooker bomb, but he later died in a shootout with police after he fled into a nearby office building.
Police at the time linked Yayat to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an Indonesian militant organization that has pledged support to IS.
Malaysian official links to Wanndy
Also on Thursday, the deputy prime minister of Malaysia linked the twin bombings in East Jakarta and recent attacks elsewhere in Southeast Asia to the April death of Malaysian IS recruiter Muhammad Wanndy Bin Mohamed Jedi, who was killed in a drone strike in Syria.
“Based on the findings of the intelligence unit, the recent terror attacks in southern Thailand, Mindanao and Jakarta are linked to each other,” Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told reporters. “The killing of Muhammad Wanndy, who is one of the coordinators for Katibah Nusantara, is linked to the bombing attacks in these locations.”
Officials and analysts in other countries played down Zahid’s comments.
In Thailand where a pipe bomb blast at a hospital injured 21 people on Monday, National Police Chief Gen. Chakthip Chaijinda told reporters he did not have intelligence information linking the attacks.
“If IS was responsible for the attack at the military-run hospital, the terrorist group would have openly taken credit like in previous terrorist attacks in other countries before this,” he told reporters.
Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict in Jakarta, also questioned Zahid’s statement about the link to Wanndy.
“That seems unlikely, especially because there was no suggestion that the Bandung group responsible for the Jakarta attacks had any links to Wanndy and there’s been no suggestion from anyone in the Maute group that his death was a factor,” she told BenarNews. She was referring to the Maute group, a militant organization linked with IS that has locked in a three-day battle with Philippine government forces in the southern city of Marawi.
Jones did say, though, that the Jakarta attack likely was carried out by a pro-IS group, according to Reuters news service.
Zachary Abuza, a U.S.-based expert on insurgencies in Southeast Asia, also questioned Zahid’s comments.
“Yes, IS cells may want to retaliate after the death of senior leaders such as Muhammad Wanndy. But there is absolutely no proof that there is a connection to the Big C bombing in Pattani, or any of the insurgency-related violence,” Abuza, a professor at the National War College in Washington, told BenarNews in an email.
He was referring to a twin car-bomb attack that wounded at least 69 people at the Big C department store in Pattani, a province in Thailand’s insurgency-stricken and Muslim-majority Deep South, on May 9.
“Bombings happen in Indonesia when they are ready to go, especially given Densus 88’s recent record of disrupting cells,” Abuza added. “These were coincidental. I think it is highly unlikely that there was any coordination.”
Analysts see JAD link
According to Taufik Andrie, executive director of Prasasti Perdamaian Foundation, a Jakarta based think-tank, evidence of the types of bombs used in the attack in East Jakarta pointed to the attackers belonging to an Indonesian group that supports IS.
Moreover, the bombs were the same as those used in foiled plots in the West Java cities of Bandung, Bekasi and Tangerang in the last seven months that led to the arrests of several suspected bombers, he said.
In December, a woman, Dian Yulia Novi, was arrested on suspicion of attempting to blow herself up during a changing-of-the-guard ceremony outside the presidential palace in Jakarta.
“Apparently, this time, their experiment was successful. My presumption currently leads to JAD groups,” Taufik told BenarNews.
Al Chaidar, a terrorism analyst at Malikussaleh University in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, said the attack was linked to IS because the militant group recently called for simultaneous attacks in regions, including Southeast Asia.
He agreed with Taufik that the attack was likely linked to JAD.
“Pressure cooker bombs are identical to IS attack patterns and certainly JAD is the most powerful (terrorist organization) currently in Indonesia,” he said.
Ray Sherman in Kuala Lumpur and Kusumasari Ayuningtyas in Solo, Indonesia, contributed to this story.