Indonesian counter-terrorist police launched simultaneous raids in four provinces on Tuesday and arrested nine suspects, including several alleged members of an extremist group that was behind recent attacks in the country, authorities said.
Among the suspects picked up by elite anti-terror squad Densus 88 was Bakri Baroncong, an alleged bomb maker who was believed to have made explosives for a foiled plot to kill the governor of South Sulawesi province in 2012, police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto said.
“We had a simultaneous operation and successfully captured nine terror suspects,” Rikwanto told BenarNews.
Five of the suspects were captured in the Sumatra province of Riau, two in Central Java, and one each in South Sulawesi and East Java provinces, he said. Rikwanto said investigators were still trying to determine whether the nine belonged to the same militant network in Indonesia.
“An investigation is underway,” he said.
Rikwanto said the police operations began early morning Tuesday with the arrest of a 42-year-old suspected militant in East Tangkerang, a village in Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau.
The suspect planned to attack a police station in the province, Rikwanto said.
An hour later, police arrested two men in a housing complex, including a man named Wawan, believed to be a local leader of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an extremist group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
JAD is led by imprisoned Indonesian Muslim cleric Aman Abdurrahman, who is classified by the United States as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
JAD has claimed responsibility for several terror attacks in the country, including shootings and bombings in Jakarta that killed eight people in January 2016, and explosions that killed five people at a bus terminal in East Jakarta in May this year.
Guntur Aryo Tejo, Riau provincial police spokesman, said all the five men arrested in Riau were members of JAD who planned to attack police stations.
He said police seized the suspects’ cell phones, bank account statements and religious books during the raids, which also caught local residents by surprise.
“I have never thought that terror suspects would be living in a very safe and comfortable housing like this,” Amin, a resident of Pandau Permai Housing, told BenarNews.
Arrests in other areas
On the same day, Densus 88 also arrested Baroncong, who had eluded capture for five years, in East Luwu, a district in South Sulawesi province.
“He was arrested for being involved in the [attempted] bombing of the South Sulawesi Governor in 2012. At that time he made a number of bombs,” Rikwanto said, explaining that the suspect stored six bombs.
South Sulawesi Gov. Syahrul Yasin Limpo was on a stage on Nov. 11, 2012 during a celebration in the provincial capital Makassar, when a suspected terrorist threw a homemade bomb, which failed to explode, police said. A student was arrested as a suspect.
In Central Java province, police arrested two men, including one who allegedly provided funds for Hendro Fernando militant group, which has links with the Central Sulawesi-based Eastern Indonesia Mujahedeen group (MIT), Rikwanto said.
He said the ninth suspect, who was arrested in East Java, “helped process” the marriage of Dian Yulia Novi and Muhammad Nur Solikin, a couple convicted in September for a foiled plot to attack the State Palace in Jakarta in December 2016.
Dian, the nation’s first female would-be suicide bomber, was sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison, while her husband, Solikin, received an 11-year prison term.
Demonstrators display a giant banner with Arabic slogans in front of the Indonesian parliament in Jakarta, during a rally to protest a new law that gives officials sweeping powers to ban groups deemed as threats to national unity, Oct. 24, 2017. [Rina Chadijah/BenarNews]
Controversial regulation endorsed
Meanwhile on Tuesday, about 1,000 members of conservative Muslim groups protested outside the parliament after lawmakers endorsed a controversial presidential decree that allows the government to ban organizations deemed as threats to national unity.
The presidential decree, signed in July by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, has been used to ban Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the domestic chapter of a hardline international group that campaigns for an Islamic caliphate in the world’s largest majority-Muslim country.
“This opens the door widely for repressive regime,” Ismail Yusanto, former HTI spokesman, told BenarNews.