Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET on 2018-05-09
Five Indonesian policemen and an inmate were killed after a riot broke out over a food complaint at a prison housing convicted terrorists near Jakarta, authorities said Wednesday while denying a claim that Islamic State (IS) extremists were involved.
As of early Thursday (local time), the last officer held hostage had been released at the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) detention facility in Depok, according to police, who said they contained the riot earlier.
“Police had to shoot one of them because he fought officers and took an officer’s weapon,” police spokesman Brig. Gen. Muhammad Iqbal told reporters in front of Mako Brimob, the Mobile Brigade’s national headquarters where the maximum-security detention center is located.
He said the riot started Tuesday evening when an inmate asked a police officer for food that had been brought by his family. The officer was not aware of the delivery, triggering an angry response from the inmate.
“Suddenly, there was a loud voice from block C shouting harsh words at the officer,” Iqbal said, adding that the incident provoked other inmates.
The five police officers who died were identified as Yudi Rospuji, Deni Setiadi, Fandi Setyo Nugroho, Syukron Fadli, and Pamungkas. Two were members of the nation’s elite police wing Densus 88, which often takes part in counter-terrorist operations, and three were police investigators. The dead prisoner was identified as Benny Samsutrisno.
The IS-affiliated Amaq News Agency said its extremists were involved in the riot, according to SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based website that monitors online communications among Muslim extremist groups worldwide.
SITE reported that IS shared photographs on social media showing the hostage and inmates carrying weapons inside the detention center.
Rohan Gunaratna, the head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore who is also a BenarNews contributor, confirmed Amaq’s statement.
“The statement of Amaq is credible,” he told BenarNews by phone on Wednesday.
Iqbal, who had been at the prison since Tuesday night, disputed the IS claim.
“I saw step by step, process by process … that’s completely untrue,” he said.
Cleric, former governor housed in prison
The Brimob center houses 130 terrorist prisoners scattered across three blocks, including cleric Aman Abdurrahman, the de facto leader of Indonesian IS supporters. He is on trial on charges stemming from recent terror attacks in Indonesia, including the Jakarta shooting and suicide bombings in January 2016, claimed as the first IS attack in Southeast Asia.
Iqbal said prison officials allowed the inmates to meet with Aman on Tuesday evening. After the meeting, the militants had additional demands.
Police spokesman Setyo Wasisto told an Indonesian TV station that the inmates who provoked the riot were members of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD), a network of extremist groups formed in 2015 and which pledged allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the Associated Press reported.
“There are about 30 to 40 hardliners and inmates from JAD who provoked other inmates,” Wasisto said.
Not all prisoners are terrorists. Former Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was sentenced last year following his blasphemy conviction, is held in a different wing of the prison for security reasons and is safe, according to a government official.
National security concern
Meanwhile, Wiranto, Indonesia’s coordinating minister of political, legal and security affairs, expressed concern about the riot.
“It has to be carefully and seriously handled because it is linked to national security,” Wiranto told reporters, adding that police officials must handle negotiations properly “based on the law."
A human rights leader said the riot exposed a threat facing Indonesia.
“The attack by convicted terrorists in the jail shows the existence of terror groups which are effective and have become a threat to security,” said Hendardi, representative of the Jakarta-based human rights group Setara Institute. “This incident reminds all parties not to compromise with radicalism and terrorism that threaten the security and ideology of the nation.”
The detention center is near where three suspected Islamic militants were arrested on Friday for allegedly targeting attacks on the Brimob command headquarters in West Java, Gadog traffic police station in Bogor and police headquarters in Bogor Regency.
In addition, another riot broke out six months ago among prisoners at the same Brimob facility in Depok, during which they raised the black flag of IS, Channel NewsAsia reported.
Zam Yusa in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia and Tria Dianti and Keisyah Aprilia in Jakarta contributed to this report.