Indonesian Police Thwart Ramadan-time Terror Plot

Yovinus Guntur W.
160609_ID_TerrorArrest_1000a.jpg Soerjami, the mother of Priyo Hadi Purnomo, is interviewed at her home in Surabaya, Indonesia, June 9, 2016.
Yovinus Guntur W./BenarNews

Indonesian police said Thursday they had arrested three men suspected of plotting terror attacks in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city, and other areas of East Java province during Ramadan.

The three suspects were picked up Wednesday in raids mounted across Surabaya by Densus 88, the police’s counterterrorist wing, said National Police spokesperson Boy Rafli Amar.

One of the suspects, identified as Priyo Hadi Purnomo, was believed to be preparing for a suicide bombing mission in Surabaya, Boy told BenarNews.

“One corroborating piece of evidence is the discovery of a number of ropes and switches that allegedly were to be used for detonating himself. Priyo would use the mobile phone to trigger the explosion,” Boy said in a phone interview.

The three men were inspired by the Islamic State (IS) extremist group to carry out the attacks targeting public places and government offices in Surabaya in coming weeks, and one of the suspects was linked to Abu Jandal, an influential Indonesian fighting for IS in the Middle East, Agence France-Presse quoted Boy as saying.

"They were influenced by IS on social media," Amar said, according to AFP. "They were inspired by IS leaders' speeches."

Indonesian supporters of IS carried out an attack in downtown Jakarta on Jan. 14 that killed eight people, including all four suspected perpetrators, according to police.

‘A quiet and good person’

Boy told BenarNews that Densus 88 seized explosives, guns and ammunition from the house where Priyo lived with his parents, and they found chemicals at the home of a second suspect, identified as Befri Rahmawan Norcahyo (alias Jefri). The third suspect was identified as Feri Novendi.

"After he was arrested, I do not know where he is because police has not told me," Soerjami, Priyo’s mother, told BenarNews.

Even though he had previously served a prison sentence on a drug conviction, her son “was always a good and quiet person,” Soerjami said, adding that she had not noticed a change in his behavior since he was freed in 2014.

However, the spokesman for national police told a different story, alleging that Priyo had been preparing to take part in a terrorist plot since getting out of prison.

"For two years, Priyo had been looking for targets of his action. He also hung out with people who shared radical views,” Boy told Benar.

While in Porong prison, according to Boy, Priyo was recruited by Muhammad Shibghotullah (alias Shibgoh), an inmate from Kalimantan who was arrested in Malaysia in late 2014 when he was about to leave Indonesia to join IS in the Middle East.

Shibgoh was sentenced to two years and eight months years in prison for engaging in a military training in the western Indonesian province of Aceh in 2010.

Priyo and the two other men planned to carry out their plot during Ramadan, which Muslims in Indonesia began observing on Monday, and around the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the holy month of fasting, Boy said.

Yellow police tape seals part of a house in Surabaya, Indonesia, where suspect Priyo Hadi Purnomo lived with his parents, June 9, 2016. (Yovinus Guntur W/BenarNews)

Suspects linked to Neo Jamaah Islamiyah: Expert

According to Al Chaidar, a terrorism expert from Malikussaleh University in Lhokseumawe, the three suspects arrested Wednesday were members of Neo Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an Indonesian network that has pledged allegiance to IS, and has been planning attacks in several cities in Indonesia, including Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Jakarta and Medan.

"The cities were chosen because they fall under the categories of cosmopolitan, pluralistic ones with many non-Muslims. In their view, the cities are considered sinful and should be burned using bombs," he told BenarNews.

The three arrests took place the same day that an Indonesian man, Yuskarman, was sentenced in Jakarta to four years and eight months for his role in a plot to bomb a Christian church, a Buddhist monastery and a police station in his Solo, Central Java.

Altogether 15 people have now been sent to prison for links to the so-called Islamic State.

That number could increase because Densus 88 arrested about 40 other people following the Jan. 14 terror attack in Jakarta.

As of December 2015, Indonesian officials estimated that approximately 800 Indonesian radicals were fighting in Syria or Iraq, the U.S. State Department said in its “2015 Country Reports on Terrorism,” which it released earlier this month.

“Indonesian officials say they have identified 284 Indonesian citizens actively involved in fighting in Iraq and Syria and are investigating an additional 516. They also believe that 52 Indonesian foreign terrorist fighters have died in Syria and estimate that another 60 to 100 have returned to Indonesia,” the State Department said.


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