Indonesian Police Link Suspects in Custody to IS Commander

Tia Asmara and Kusumasari Ayuningtyas
Jakarta and Klaten, Indonesia
161212_ID_arrests_1000.jpg Police raid the house of a terror suspect in Surakarta (Solo), Central Java, Dec. 11, 2016.
Kusumasari Ayuningtyas/BenarNews

Updated at 2 p.m. ET 2016-12-14

A group of suspects arrested in a foiled bomb plot targeting the Presidential Palace in Jakarta belonged to a terrorist network led by Syria-based Indonesian Islamic State (IS) commander Bahrun Naim, the national police said Monday.

National Police spokesman Inspector Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said the seven suspects taken into custody during weekend raids in West Java and East Java provinces were part of cells believed to be tied to an IS-claimed terrorist attack in Jakarta that killed eight people in January.

They were also linked to a suicide bomb attack outside police headquarters in Surakarta (Solo), Central Java, in July, Indonesian news reports quoted him as saying. Police have accused Bahrun of masterminding the Jan. 14 attack.

The suspects in the latest plot, including an alleged female suicide bomber, planned to target crowds gathered to watch a changing of the guard ceremony outside the Presidential Palace on Sunday, police said.

“[T]hese terror cells had direct contacts with Bahrun. They operated in several cities. They belonged to a terror cell in Surakarta, Central Java. They had planned a terror attack, in which Bekasi [West Java] was just a transit area before they moved to their main target area, Jakarta,” Boy told a news conference on Monday, the Jakarta Post reported.

On Saturday police officers from the anti-terror squad Densus 88 arrested four people who allegedly were plotting a suicide attack outside the palace. The next day, authorities arrested three more suspects in different locations in Central Java and East Java, according to another national police spokesman, Senior Commander Awi Setiyono.

Police identified six of the suspects as Kafid Fathoni, Nur Solihin, Agus Supriyadi, Dian Yulia Novi, Sutanto (alias Abu Izzah) and Wawan Prasetyo, according to the Post.

Dian was prepared to serve as “a bride” – a term in terror networks that connotes a suicide bomber, police alleged. During her arrest police seized a high-explosive bomb packed into a pressure cooker in her rented room in a house in Bekasi. The bomb squad later detonated it.

Police also found a letter that Dian allegedly wrote to her parents, claiming she was ready to be a martyr.

A neighbor said one of the suspects, who was identified by the initials A.S., was known as an active preacher at a nearby mosque.

"He is one of those who was taking care of the mosque, but there was never any deviant activity, let alone bomb making," the neighbor told BenarNews.

Debate over leader

Security analysts commented on Bahrun’s role in the foiled plot.

Bahrun is an Islamic State leader in Syria who has influence in Indonesia through the formation of small terror cells, said Khairul Fahmi, an analyst with the Institute for Security and Strategic Studies.

As long as Bahrun is around, the potential for terror attacks lingers, said another analyst, Ridlwan Habib of the University of Indonesia.

“I suspect there will be more terrorist acts,” he told BenarNews.

Ridlwan suggested that the Indonesian government figure out how to capture Bahrun, even if that meant working with the CIA or Britain’s MI6 to catch him.

“If we wait until he dies in the war, it could be very long and very risky to Indonesia,” Ridlwan said.

Terrorism analyst Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), earlier challenged the police’s claim that Bahrun Naim was behind the January attack. She said the attack was plotted and executed by a home-based group, whose ideological leader is imprisoned Indonesian Muslim cleric Aman Abdurrahman.

Fight together

Following the arrests, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo urged the Indonesian people to come together to fight terrorism.

“Without the support of the whole society, it would be hard to fight terrorism. There is no room, no matter how small it is, for terrorism in Indonesia,” he said.

Responding to a question regarding the plot against the palace, Jokowi said terrorists could strike anywhere.

“Terrorists can target anything, everything (has been targeted), mosques, churches, hotels, embassies, streets. Therefore, the government, people, the police, we have to continue to fight,” he said.

Story was updated to clarify neighbor's comments about A.S.'s role at a mosque.


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