Indonesia police chief warns of female militancy trend as 4th woman terror suspect nabbed

Jakarta police spokesman Awi Setiyono showing a photo of the "rice cooker bomb" on Dec 11, 2016. The police say it contained explosives more powerful than military-grade TNT and had a blast radius of about 300m.
Jakarta police spokesman Awi Setiyono showing a photo of the "rice cooker bomb" on Dec 11, 2016. The police say it contained explosives more powerful than military-grade TNT and had a blast radius of about 300m.COPYRIGHT: SPH

JAKARTA - Indonesia's police chief warned on Friday (Dec 16) that women were increasingly being used by terrorist groups to launch attacks in the country, as local media reported counter-terrorism forces had arrested a fourth woman within a week for suspected terror links, local media reported.

“Using women to carry out acts of terror is becoming increasingly more popular with terror groups because women are seen as less suspicious,” National Police Chief Tito Karnavian said told reporters on the sidelines of a ceremony at the National Police headquarters in South Jakarta, adding that recruiting women for terrorism was not new in other parts of the world.

National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said the police had anticipated involvement of women in terrorist groups in the the country but did not expect that women would take on direct and core roles in planning attacks.

“Terrorist groups here are recruiting women to avoid suspicion when carrying out attacks. It’s a new strategy to deceive the targets,” Inspector General Boy said. 

Earlier on Friday, Antara state news agency reported that a 34-year-old former migrant worker was nabbed by Detachment 88 (Densus 88) on Thursday in a mosque near her home in Purworejo, Central Java, citing Purworejo police chief Satrio Wibowo.

Tempo News quoted General Satrio as saying that Ika had just returned home in Purworejo about two months ago.

Her family told Radar Jogja Online, a local news portal, that she had worked as a maid in Malaysia and was planning to be a housekeeper in Hong Kong. 

Items seized from her home include a passport, mobile phone as well as books. "The suspect terrorist and evidence seized were sent to Jakarta for further investigations," he added.

Densus 88 commandos had over the last week arrested at least 10 members of a new terrorist cell, including three women members of a Solo-based cell linked to an ISIS-inspired plot to bomb the presidential palace in Jakarta last Sunday (Dec 11).

One of the three women was Dian Yuli Novi, who had worked as a maid in Singapore and Taiwan. Dian, 27, had hidden a homemade "rice-cooker" bomb in her rented room where she was arrested last Saturday in Bekasi, West Java.

The other two women were Arida Putri Maharani, 25, arrested in Sunda, a town in Solo, last Sunday -  a day after Densus 88 foiled the attack - and Tutin Sugiarti, 37, arrested in  Tasikmalaya, West Java, on Thursday. Tutin is believed to have played a part in recruiting Dian.

All three women are members of the Solo-based cell 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 and Arida were prepared to mount suicide bombings in the capital. They are married to Muhammad Nur Solikin, the 26-year-old leader of the terror cell.

It has not been established if Ika is linked to the Solo group.

Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (Ipac) director Sidney Jones told The Jakarta Post that online chatter indicates that some of these women have expressed admiration for other women who played active roles in the terrorist movements in Europe.

“Because they think it is more prestigious, more honourable, more satisfying if they want to be mujahidah," said Ms Jones, using the term for female militants. "While some (Indonesian) women are content to just be wives and mothers, they want more active roles in fighting."