Testimony from a female would-be suicide bomber helped Indonesian police thwart planned Christmas and New Year’s attacks by killing three suspects and capturing four others on Wednesday, officials told reporters.
Members of the anti-terror squad Densus 88, acting on testimony provided by Dian Yulia Novi, arrested a suspect identified as Adam, at 8 a.m. in South Tangerang, Banten, West Java province, about 25 km (15 miles) from Jakarta. Dian, who allegedly planned a suicide bomb attack outside the Presidential Palace during a changing-of-the-guard ceremony, was arrested Dec. 10.
Brig. Gen. Rikwanto, chief of the national police’s public information bureau, said Adam had told officers about three friends who lived in a house in the neighborhood of Babakan, South Tangerang. When Densus 88 raided the house around 9:45 a.m., the three resisted and were shot dead.
“They had been asked to surrender but they fought back, and threw a bomb, but the bomb did not explode. So we had to take firm action to paralyze them,” Rikwanto told a press conference at national police headquarters in Jakarta.
The dead suspects were identified as Omen, Erwan, and Helmi. Police found homemade pipe bombs and firearms in the rented house. The bombs were detonated at the scene.
“They wanted to detonate bombs at Christmas and New Year targeting police. (Their plan) was first to stab a police officer to attract crowd, and then detonate the bomb,” Jakarta Police Chief Inspector-General Mochamad Iriawan told reporters.
Elsewhere, police arrested a suspect in Payakumbuh, West Sumatra, identified as Jhon Tanamal, (alias Hamza), and another in Deli Serdang, North Sumatra, identified as Syafii.
National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian said both were associated with the Khatibah Gonggong Rebus (KGR), a group that had planned a rocket attack on Singapore from the nearby Indonesian island of Batam, in August. Police found books and documents on bomb-making and materials, a national police spokesman said.
A suspect arrested Wednesday afternoon in Sagulung sub district in Batam has been identified as Abisya. He is part of KGR and affiliated with Bahrun Naim, according to police.
“Together with the other members of KGR, he helped two ethnic Uyghurs enter Indonesia illegally and hid their presence while in Batam,” Police Commander Awi Setiyono said in a statement. In August 2015 in Batam, Abisya and fellow KGR members allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS).
Where is Bahrun Naim?
According to police, Dian’s husband, Muhammad Nur Solihin, who also was arrested on Dec. 10, led a network preparing terror attacks in several areas in Indonesia. Nur, who pledged allegiance to IS, said in a television interview that he had received instructions from Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian who is believed to be in Syria and leading an IS combat unit made up of Southeast Asian fighters.
On Tuesday, the deputy head for law enforcement of the National Counterterrorism Agency said the government was not certain of the current location of Bahrun Naim. Police have said he was behind a terror attack in Jakarta that left eight dead, including the four attackers, on Jan. 14.
Indonesian police have also said that a terrorist cell in Indonesia was working under the direction of Bahrun Naim and other radical figures, including Bahrun Syah and Abu Whalid (alias Syaifuddin).
“The latest information is, they’ve been given assignments in Southeast Asia, based in the southern Philippines,” National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told a news conference on Dec. 16.
Year-end attack doctrine
Al Chaidar, a terrorism analyst from the Malikussaleh University in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, said Wednesday’s arrests were connected to a doctrine issued in 2000 by Hambali, a former leader of the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah. He is now incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, and had earlier called for attacks to be carried out during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“The main target is police because they believe police are taghout so they should be attacked,” Chaidar told BenarNews, using a term from Islamic theology that refers to idolatry or to the worship of anything except Allah.
He added that those arrested belonged to a very small cell.
“They do not know each other but are ruled by the same person,” he said.
Some of those arrested could be affiliated with Aman Abdurahman and Bahrun Naim, said Abu Harith Ulya, another terrorism expert. Aman is an inmate who was convicted for his role in terrorist training by Jemaah Islamiyah in Aceh, in 2010.
“There is another possibility, they are just IS sympathizers who are not connected with Bahrun Naim, but read Bahrun’s guidance that circulated in social media,” Harith told BenarNews.
Tia Asmara contributed to this report.