Indonesian police responded quickly to the attack in Jakarta by militants with ties to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), rounding up three suspects after pre-dawn raids across West Java yesterday.
It is also becoming clearer that the siege was orchestrated by Indonesian ISIS loyalist Muhammad Bahrun Naim with operational directions and funds traced to Syria, Bahrun's last known location and a stronghold of the terror group, which he is said to have linked up with in February last year.
Indonesian police chief Badrodin Haiti yesterday said his force had gleaned this from intelligence gathered through human sources and wiretaps.
Police spokesman Anton Charliyan added that Bahrun, 32, is also known to have control over militants in Indonesia. "Some deal directly with him, others deal through a coordinator named Abu Jundi, whom we arrested in December."
Counter-terrorism and security expert Susan Sim believes the latest development shows that Bahrun harbours ambitions of becoming the leader of militants in his homeland, and this could pose a threat to the region. "ISIS clearly has not been paying much attention to the Indonesian groups pledging allegiance to it," she said. "And with this latest attack, Bahrun seems to be hoping to prove to ISIS central that he has the ground capacity in Indonesia and should be allowed to set up an ISIS branch in South-east Asia and be named its emir."
The police have raised their operational tempo against local militant groups since Thursday's attack, which left seven people - including five militants - dead and more than 20 others injured.
A spokesman said they had received a tip-off that the three suspects nabbed yesterday had prior knowledge of the siege on the Starbucks cafe and police post at the busy downtown junction of Jalan M.H. Thamrin and Jalan K.H. Wahid Hasyim.
Crack troops from police counter-terror unit Detachment 88 then raided two locations at 5am yesterday in Depok and Cirebon in West Java, where they arrested the trio.
The suspects, aged 36, 43 and 73, are being interrogated, and more arrests are expected in the days ahead, said General Badrodin.
He added that Thursday's attack would have involved extensive planning - a survey of the location,assembling and concealing the bombs, and escape plans.
"Initially, we said there were five perpetrators but I am sure there are more because they must have had a supporting team," he said.
Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan plans to propose a review of Indonesia's counter-terrorism laws to prevent future attacks. "If it is not changed, we are only firefighters," he said yesterday, adding that he hopes to accord law enforcement agencies more authority to prevent acts of terrorism.
Other efforts by the authorities to counter the threat include the blocking of radical websites that propagate extremist ideology.
Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen offered his condolences as well as assurance that Singapore will stand with Indonesia in the fight against extremists. "We will step up intelligence exchanges and other efforts as we discussed during my visit last month," he wrote on Facebook yesterday. "The threat of terrorism to Singaporeans has increased and we must remain vigilant here and work with other countries to stem this tide of terror."
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