Police scour Batam for remnants of terror cell

Indonesian anti-terror police conduct a raid at a house in Batam on August 5.
Indonesian anti-terror police conduct a raid at a house in Batam on August 5. PHOTO: AFP

Fewer than 10 remaining members being tracked down, say Indonesian police

Indonesian police are scouring Batam island for other militants from a little-known terror cell, a day after the arrest of six members including its leader who was planning to fire a rocket into Singapore's Marina Bay.

National police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told The Sunday Times yesterday that police are tracking down "fewer than 10" remaining members of the Katibah GR (Cell GR), which was formed in 2014.

Police had been monitoring the activities of its leader Gigih Rahmat Dewa, 31, since last year, when he and Syria-based Indonesian militant Muhammad Bahrun Naim hatched a plan to fire a missile into Marina Bay, he said. "He had not set his exact target yet; it was still in the planning stage. We are now trying to gather physical evidence of his plan," the spokesman added.

Indonesian police rounded up the six men, aged 19 to 46, on Friday in early-morning raids for harbouring suspected Uighur militants.

Gigih was also suspected of receiving and channelling funds for radical activities and facilitating Indonesians to travel to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group.

 

Mr Boy Rafli said bomb-making materials had been recovered after the arrests. "There were no sophisticated arms confiscated, only bomb-making materials," he told Reuters.

 

The group, who are being held in Batam, will be flown to Jakarta for questioning. A police source told The Sunday Times that one of them was released yesterday due to lack of evidence. Madam Desi Fitrianti told reporters in Batam yesterday that police had released her son, 19-year-old Muhammad Tegar Sucianto. "Police questioned my son about his friends, but clearly he knew nothing," she said.

In response to this terror threat and the prevailing security situation, police and other agencies in Singapore have been stepping up inland and border security measures, said Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean on Friday.

Mr Boy Rafli said vital facilities in Batam were being secured. He added that Indonesian and Singapore police "always communicate and share information", including on the latest arrest.

Police stated that the men nabbed had said Katibah GR stood for Katibah Gonggong Rebus, or Boiled-Snails Cell. The media had assumed that GR referred to its leader Gigih Rahmat. Boiled sea snails are a popular seafood dish in Batam.

Mr Ansyaad Mbai, former chief of Indonesia's influential anti-terror agency, said its name is an indication of how militant groups in Indonesia have become splintered and divided, and the members "could care less about being part of a big-named network" such as Jemaah Islamiah. "These groups are fluid and no longer solid like in the past. They are ad hoc and could be formed by a small group of people who share the same ideology and extreme mindset," he told The Sunday Times.

"They sympathise with Muslims who are oppressed overseas. And whoever has fought there in Syria, whoever is the most brutal or has money, that person is idolised and becomes the leader," Mr Ansyaad added. "The Indonesian militants now can't distinguish Jemaah Islamiah from Al-Qaeda or ISIS. To them, these groups are the same."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 07, 2016, with the headline 'Police scour Batam for remnants of terror cell'. Print Edition | Subscribe