Jakarta bomb plot: Third woman, three more men arrested

Jakarta police spokesman Awi Setiyono showing a photo of the "rice cooker bomb", which was to be used to bomb the Presidential Palace, on Dec 11, 2016.
Jakarta police spokesman Awi Setiyono showing a photo of the "rice cooker bomb", which was to be used to bomb the Presidential Palace, on Dec 11, 2016.ST PHOTO: FRANCIS CHAN

Elite counter-terrorism commandos have nabbed more members of a Solo-based terrorist cell, including a third Indonesian woman, involved in an ISIS-inspired plot to bomb the presidential palace in Jakarta.

Indonesian police spokesman Martinus Sitompo said  that the woman was arrested at 4.30am local time yesterday, during an operation by the Detachment 88 (Densus 88) counter-terrorism unit in Tasikmalaya, West Java.

The 37-year-old housewife, identified as Tutin Sugiarti, is believed to have played a part in recruiting Dian Yuli Novi, a 27-year-old woman who was found with a homemade bomb and arrested last Saturday in Bekasi, West Java.

Tutin was arrested with her husband in a rented room, but police have yet to establish if he, too, is a suspect in the case.

"We are still investigating their links," the spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday.

Tutin is the third woman, after Dian and Arida Putri Maharani, 25, to be arrested by Densus 88 in connection with the bomb plot.

All three women are members of a new terrorist cell based in Solo, Central Java, set up by Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant who is in the Middle East fighting alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

The Straits Times understands that only Dian, who once worked in Singapore as a maid, and Arida were prepared to mount suicide bombings in the capital.

Dian was arrested in a rented room in Bekasi, where the police also found the 3kg "rice-cooker" bomb which she had intended to use for a suicide attack at Istana Merdeka during the change-of-guard ceremony on Sunday.

Arida was arrested in Sunda, a town in Solo, a day after Densus 88 foiled the attack and discovered that Dian and Arida are married to Muhammad Nur Solikin, the 26-year-old leader of the terror cell.

National police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said Densus 88 has so far rounded up at least 10 suspected members of the group, including three more men, in recent days.

The latest to be taken into custody - Imam Syafi’I, 33, Sumarno, 44, and Sunarto, 30 - are being questioned.

Densus 88 busted the Solo cell two weeks after the unit uncovered a similar group - also linked to Bahrun - in Majalengka, West Java, that was planning to hit targets in Jakarta this month.

Bahrun has been setting up smaller militant cells in Indonesia and tasking them with recruiting militants, including women, to mount attacks, according to the police.

Inspector-General Boy said that Bahrun has also transferred money to various members of the cells, enabling them to acquire military-grade explosives such as triacetone triperoxide (TATP). 

TATP can be easily turned into a highly explosive substance when mixed with other chemicals.

Traces of TATP were found in bombs used in the July 2005 London bombings and the Paris attacks last year. The same substance was also detected in the "rice-cooker" bomb found in Dian’s safehouse in Bekasi when she was detained, said the police.

Her arrest that day came minutes after Nur Solikin and Agus Supriyadi, 36, were ambushed by commandos on an overpass in East Jakarta, after they delivered the bomb.

A fourth man, Suyanto, was later caught in Karanganyar, Central Java. The 40-year-old had provided his home for Khafid Antoni, a 22-year-old student, to assemble the bomb.

Khafid was arrested on Sunday in Ngawi, East Java, while Wawan Prasetyawan, a 24-year-old labourer who helped to store the explosives and bomb components, is also in custody.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2016, with the headline 'Jakarta bomb plot: Third woman, three more men arrested'. Print Edition | Subscribe