Police: JI Militants Had Planned Attack for Indonesian Independence Day

Ronna Nirmala
Jakarta
2021-08-20
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Police: JI Militants Had Planned Attack for Indonesian Independence Day Motorists stop to salute the Indonesian flag along a road in Malang to mark the country’s 76th Independence Day, Aug. 17, 2021.
AFP

Jemaah Islamiyah, the militant group behind the 2002 Bali bombings, had been plotting some kind of attack during Indonesias Independence Day celebrations earlier this week, police said Friday.

Police arrested 53 militant suspects – all but three believed to be JI members – during several raids across the archipelago since last week, national police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

According to statements from several suspects that we arrested, the JI group had wanted to take advantage of Independence Day on August 17,” to carry out an attack, Argo told reporters in Jakarta on Friday.

Argo did not provide details but said police had confiscated items, including homemade guns and bullets from some of the suspects.

He also said some of the suspects had been tasked with raising funds, recruiting followers, and overseeing training.

The police revealed the plot days after the Taliban, a radical Muslim insurgent group, toppled the Western-backed government in Afghanistan. Since then, security experts in Southeast Asia have warned that the Taliban’s swift takeover of that country could embolden Muslim extremists in the region.

The Taliban victory in Kabul “will ignite the spirit of jihad in Indonesia,” Sofyan Tsauri, a former member of Jemaah Islamiyah and former policeman who spent five years in prison for terrorism-related offenses, told BenarNews.

The “movement of terrorist groups in Indonesia is more or less influenced by developments at the global and regional levels,” said Wawan Hari Purwanto, a spokesman for the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).

Dragnet

In the nationwide sweep, authorities said that Densus 88, Indonesias counter-terror police squad, had rounded up 53 suspected extremists in nearly a dozen provinces over the past week.

Two suspects, who police identified by their initials S. and D.W., were arrested in Jambi city on the island of Sumatra. They were believed to have attended a JI training program in Bogor, a town just south of Jakarta, and the Central Java regency of Klaten, Argo said.

Some of the arrested JI members were also involved in fundraising activities through a JI-linked charity called Syam Organizer.

Police said those suspects were arrested in Central Java, Lampung, North Sumatra, Banten, West Java, East Java, Jambi, South Sulawesi, Maluku, and West Kalimantan.

Independence Day is among key dates and celebrations targeted by militants in Indonesia – the others being Ramadan and Christmas – said Stanislaus Riyanta, a security analyst at the Indonesian Center for Political and Strategic Policy Studies (POLKASI).

The authorities have identified this pattern, and raids usual increase during those three occasions,” Stanislaus told BenarNews.

Indonesian authorities blamed the group for a series of deadly attacks in Indonesia after the 9/11 attacks in the United States, including the October 2002 bombings at nightclubs in Bali, which killed 202 people in Indonesias most fatal terror attack.

The outlawed Jemaah Islamiyah is the Southeast Asian affiliate of al-Qaeda, which launched the 9/11 attacks from their safe haven in then Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, but JI hasnt staged a major attack here since 2011.

Good at adapting

Meanwhile, a senior anti-terrorism police officer warned the public to watch out for JI militantsactivities.

Police had arrested 123 JI suspects since 2019, Aswin Siregar, the head of operational support at the Densus 88 anti-terrorism police unit, said.

We want to remind people that JI members are very good at adapting to situations, including possibly participating in politics and mingling with communities,” Aswin told the same news conference.

Police also said they had arrested a local JI leader identified by the initials R.H. and seized 1,540 boxes suspected of being linked to the groups fundraising efforts during a Sunday raid at a house in Bandung, the capital of West Java province.

Another police spokesman, Ahmad Ramadhan, said that the boxes belonged to Syam Organizer, and were used to raise funds without attracting authoritiessuspicion.

He said the proceeds were used to send JI members to Syria from 2013-2017 to provide clean water and build houses in the war-ravaged Middle Eastern country.

Separately, police last week also arrested three people in East Kalimantan province with suspected links to the Islamic State-affiliated Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) militant network.

Since last year, police have stepped up arrests of suspected JI members. 

Last November and December, police announced the arrest of Aris Sumarsono (alias Zulkarnaen), JIs military commander during the 2002 Bali bombings, and Upik Lawanga, an expert bomb maker.

Aris had been on the run from authorities for 18 years. Upik allegedly was involved in several attacks in Central Sulawesi province between 2004 and 2006.

In 2020, JIs overall leader, Para Wijayanto, was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Although Indonesia banned JI in 2008, the government has given it some autonomy to engage in social welfare, charitable, educational, and religious activities, as long as its members eschewed violence, counter-terrorism analysts have said.

The group’s radical spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir, 83, was released from prison in January after serving nearly 10 years of a 15-year-sentence on terror-related charges. Experts say the organization has been rebuilding slowly since then.

JI has also sent jihadists to fight in Syria and Iraq in the past. Abu Bakars son, Abdul Rohim Bashir, told BenarNews, that his father was rejoicing over the Taliban victory.

Ustad (teacher) Abu is happy that the Taliban have succeeded in liberating their country after 20 years,” Abdul Rahim said. What the Taliban have done for so long is exemplary.”

Security analysts have previously said that although JI did not pose an immediate threat, it could destabilize Indonesia in the future.

Currently, JI is not a security threat because JI is more focused on missionary work,” said Moh Taufiqurrohman, a senior researcher at the Center for Radicalism and Deradicalization Studies (PAKAR).

But in the future, it will be very dangerous when it has established a military and begins to attack the government,” he warned. The impact will be worse than JAD,” he said, referring to Islamic States local affiliate.

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