In unprecedented TV interviews, a man and a woman allegedly on the brink of becoming Indonesia’s first female suicide bomber gave a chilling account of their marriage, carried out to facilitate an attack they said was being planned and directed from Syria.
In separate interviews conducted late Tuesday at an unspecified location after their arrest, Dian Yulia Novi and Nur Solihin told private television network TVOne how they had received instructions over Telegram from someone whom they believed was Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian member of the extremist group Islamic State (IS).
The two are among seven suspects arrested over the weekend for a suicide attack planned for Dec. 11 during a changing-of-the-guard outside the presidential palace in Jakarta, according to police.
Nur Solihin said he took the bomb – a rice cooker packed with high-powered explosives – to the rented room where his wife, Dian Yulia Novi, was staying.
“All of it, from the target, the hour, the time, the person who arranged it was Bahrun Naim. I myself didn’t know the details at first … but when the time drew near, he informed me,” Nur Solihin said during a 23-minute interview uploaded to YouTube by TVOne.
Police seized the device in Bekasi, a city adjacent to Jakarta, and later detonated it, officials said during a press conference on Monday.
‘Someone stood in for me’
Dian, reportedly 27 years old, told an interviewer that she was from Cirebon, West Java, and had worked abroad as a domestic servant in Singapore for a year and a half and in Taiwan for three years.
Clad in a black niqab, she said she was an avid consumer of jihadist articles and podcasts on Facebook.
“On Facebook, for the last year, I opened the status of jihadists who inspired me,” she said, speaking without emotion and seldom looking at her interviewer.
In October 2016, she married a man she had been introduced to and conversed with on Telegram that same month. She was aware he was already married and had children. She had never seen him and did not attend the wedding, which was arranged by her soon-to-be husband, she said.
“I don’t really know how it was done, everything was handled by [Nur Solihin], and someone stood in for me,” she said.
They met after the marriage for the first time, and again in November, when he helped her make an oath to the Islamic State.
She said she had been certain about being a suicide bomber for at least three months, not out of desperation to end her life but “as a way to please God.”
She did not know the details of the planned attack, but was eventually informed by Bahrun Naim via Telegram chat that the target would be presidential guards outside the Presidential Palace.
He instructed her to mingle with the spectators who typically gather to watch the changing of the guard, then run toward the guards and detonate herself, she said.
‘The bomber should be a woman’
Interviewed separately, Nur Solihin said the motivation for the marriage was to prepare Dian to be a suicide bomber, which had long been her ambition, he claimed.
He said he grew to love his new wife “very much” but was still willing to facilitate her death because it was her goal, he said.
“It was Bahrun Naim who said the bomber should be a woman,” he said.
Nur Solihin said he had known about Bahrun Naim “for a long time” and had sent his resume to write for his “media” but did not meet him before he left for Syria.
Since all their communications were over Telegram text, how could he be sure it was Bahrun Naim? An interviewer asked.
“I believe it was Bahrun Naim, but it’s not important,” he replied.
“[T]hese terror cells had direct contacts with Bahrun. They operated in several cities. They belonged to a terror cell in Surakarta [Solo], Central Java. They had planned a terror attack, in which Bekasi was just a transit area before they moved to their main target area, Jakarta,” police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told a news conference on Monday, the Jakarta Post reported.