Indonesian police said Friday they had arrested 29 militant suspects who were allegedly plotting to bomb a political gathering when official full results of the country’s general election are announced next week.
The suspects were caught in raids across Indonesia during the past month and were believed to be members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a local militant network affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, national police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal told a news conference in Jakarta.
“They were planning to carry out amalia, or a terrorist act, by attacking a crowd of people on May 22 using bombs,” Iqbal said. Next Wednesday, Indonesian election officials are expected to announce complete results of presidential, legislative, regional and municipal polls, which were held in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation on April 17.
Two of the suspects in custody were veterans of the Syrian conflict who had been deported after learning bomb-making skills in Aleppo, Iqbal said.
The police spokesman said the suspects planned to use remote-controlled explosives to target supporters of opposition presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, who were expected to rally on May 22 against alleged electoral fraud in front of the General Election Commission headquarters.
The suspects hoped to exploit the demonstration and create chaos through a bomb-attack, Iqbal said.
“We don’t want this to happen to the crowd. Imagine, if there are only 100 people, how many people will fall victims?” Iqbal told reporters.
“We cannot underestimate it and we continue to work. We don’t know for sure if there are still [plotters] out there,” he added.
In recent days, the Indonesian government said it was deploying up to 32,000 security personnel in the capital Jakarta to safeguard the official announcement of vote results.
“We cannot underestimate it and we continue to work. We don’t know for sure if there are still [plotters] out there,” he said.
Also on Friday, the U.S. embassy in Jakarta issued a security alert in connection with the official announcement of Indonesian poll results on May 22.
It advised American citizens “to avoid areas where demonstrations or political rallies are occurring and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large gathering.”
“Indonesian police officials have publicly cited a heightened risk of terrorism in connection with the finalization of election results, and media has reported recent arrests of Indonesians on terrorism charges,” said the alert posted on the embassy’s website.
Suspects share bomb-plot details
While arresting the suspected JAD members, police seized five homemade bombs, detonators, an air rifle, five bullet caches and a knife from the suspects, according to Iqbal, the national police spokesman.
At Friday’s press conference, officials also played a video produced by police in which two of the suspects in custody talked about the terror plot.
“I led a number of brothers to carry out amalia [a terrorist attack] on May 22 by using a remote as there will be a crowd on that day. This will be a good opportunity to carry out an attack because democracy is a major form of polytheism,” said one of the suspects, whom police identified as Dedi Yusuf.
Another suspect, who was identified only by his initials, E.Y., said in the video: “[The attack] will be carried out by placing the bombs we have assembled and using a remote control as a detonator.”
So far in 2019, the Indonesian police’s counter-terrorist force, Densus 88, has arrested at least 60 militant suspects and killed eight others during raids nationwide, Iqbal said.
Security minister: ‘We want to prevent a concentration of people’
With more than 80 percent of the votes counted, incumbent President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was leading with 56 percent in the presidential contest against Prabowo, according to official results through Friday.
But his challenger has vowed to reject the official results and alleged that the election was rigged in Jokowi’s favor.
On Thursday, Security Affairs Minister Wiranto urged the police, military and local governments to prevent Prabowo’s supporters from leaving for Jakarta to carry out their protest on May 22.
“We want to prevent a concentration of people. Don’t let people leave their home towns for Jakarta,” Wiranto told reporters.
He tried to assure the public that there was no massive or systematic fraud in last month’s polls.
"The election is over and the results are there,” Wiranto said.