Indonesian counterterror police are questioning six men detained in Sumatra on the weekend, including three who were allegedly plotting to bomb Indonesia’s national parliament, officials said.
Police picked up three individuals in Pringsewu, near the southern tip of Sumatra, on Sunday, Amran Ampulembang, an intelligence official at Lampung regional police, told BenarNews.
The day before, at Riau University in Pekanbaru, about 700 miles north, authorities seized four handmade bombs and arrested three suspects who were plotting to attack the national parliament building in Jakarta and the provincial parliament building as well, Riau Regional Police Chief Nandang told reporters.
The men, former students of the university, are suspected members of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), National Police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal told BenarNews in Jakarta. JAD is composed of about two dozen Indonesian extremist groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, according to the U.S. government, which has listed the network as a terrorist entity.
Iqbal confirmed only one arrest in Lampung and declined to say whether that detainee was linked to the three arrested in Riau.
“We’re still investigating. Still trying to find out,” he said.
He also said it was too soon to say whether the men arrested in Riau were linked to a May 16 terror attack on a Pekanbaru police station in which four suspected terrorists and a police officer were killed.
“Whether they are linked to the attack on the Riau Regional Police is also being investigated. … As is the question of the money flow and why they were [on campus] when their status is that of alumni,” Iqbal said.
But Riau police spokesman Sunarto said one suspect, identified only as “Z,” had been asked to make a bomb for the attackers, although he did not do so because he was busy.
On May 16, an officer was killed and four other people were injured when a white van rammed into the yard of a police station in Pekanbaru. Four men who got out of the van, including one wielding a samurai sword, were shot dead. The driver fled but was later apprehended.
The attack was one of several terrorism-related incidents in May including suicide bombings at churches in Surabaya and a prison riot at a facility near Jakarta. In all, 51 people – 13 civilians, seven police and 31 suspects – died, according to a BenarNews count.
Riau arrestee “Z” often stayed at the rustic headquarters of a campus environmental group, according to university students who knew him and expressed astonishment at his arrest over terrorism allegations.
“Z” was a funny, cheerful guy who typically wore T-shirts and hiking boots, said one student, who declined to give his name. Another said he stayed on campus because his parents live outside Pekanbaru.
Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency earlier named seven campuses where students were at risk of exposure to radicalism, but stressed the list was not exhaustive and only included schools in Java.
The seven schools are University of Indonesia in Jakarta; Bandung Institute of Technology; Bogor Institute of Agriculture; Diponegoro University in Solo; November 10 Institute of Technology in Surabaya; Airlangga University in Surabaya; and Brawijaya University in Malang.