Six more men with links to Jakarta attack nabbed

Officers from Indonesia's counter-terror unit escorting a terror suspect at a police station in Malang, East Java, yesterday. At least one of the six men arrested was directly linked to the four militants who mounted the attack in Jakarta on Jan 14.
Officers from Indonesia's counter-terror unit escorting a terror suspect at a police station in Malang, East Java, yesterday. At least one of the six men arrested was directly linked to the four militants who mounted the attack in Jakarta on Jan 14. The arrest of the six men takes the total number of suspects in custody over the attack last month to about 25.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Police free another 38 suspects who could not be linked to terror offences under current laws

Indonesian police have arrested six more men with links to the Jan 14 attack in Jakarta, taking the total number of suspects in custody to about 25.

But while the country's counter- terrorism forces have been expanding their dragnet for militants after last month's incident, a separate group of 38 suspects rounded up in Central Java province had to be released yesterday after being held for questioning.

This was because the police were unable to connect them to offences under the current set of anti-terrorism laws, provincial police spokesman Liliek Darmanto told the Associated Press yesterday.

The 38 were detained during a raid on a suspected militant training camp in Mount Sumbing, Central Java, early on Saturday morning.

Among the items seized from the camp were air rifles and knives, as well as books on armed struggle.

In a separate raid last Friday, the elite Detachment 88 (Densus 88) counter-terrorism unit detained the six men in Malang, East Java.

Lieutenant-Colonel Arif Makhfudiharto, who heads the anti-terrorism squad in West Java, told Associated Press that Mukhtar is believed to have planned the Jakarta attack with Muhammad Ali and Sunakim alias Afif - two militants killed by police during the attack last month.

Mukhtar is said to have been recently released from prison after serving time for his role in a deadly 2004 attack on a police station.

The suspects, with at least one directly linked to the four militants who mounted the strike in Jakarta, were arrested at about 7pm.

A police official, who asked not to be named, identified five of them as Romli, Nazarudin Mukhtar alias Abu Gar, Rudi Hadianto, M. Toha and Badrodin. The sixth man was identified only by the initials U.K.M.

The Straits Times understands that a police surveillance team had spotted them driving out of Green Hill estate in Malang earlier in a silver Toyota belonging to Romli.

Lieutenant-Colonel Arif Makhfudiharto, who heads the anti-terrorism squad in West Java, told Associated Press that Mukhtar is believed to have planned the Jakarta attack with Muhammad Ali and Sunakim alias Afif - two militants killed by police during the attack last month.

Mukhtar is said to have been recently released from prison after serving time for his role in a deadly 2004 attack on a police station in Maluku province, said Lt-Col Arif.

He also said Mukhtar had visited radical ideologues Aman Abdurrahman and Abu Bakar Bashir in Nusakambangan prison, where Aman directed him last November to launch a terror attack.

Police investigations seem to indicate that Aman might have ordered the Jan 14 attack from his jail cell.

The "Jakarta Four" of Sunakim and Ali, as well as Dian Joni Kurniadi and Ahmad Muhazin, were members of extremist groups in Indonesia consolidated by Aman under the Jemaah Anshar Khilafah terror network last year.

All four had also visited Aman at least three times before the attack and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) under Aman's influence.

Lt-Col Arif believes Mukhtar did the same.

National police chief Badrodin Haiti told Parliament last week that 33 suspects had been arrested in connection with the Jakarta attack.

But many were released because current anti-terror laws prevent them from being held for extended periods unless the police have sufficient evidence.

However, the police will soon be able to hold suspects involved in plans to mount a terror attack for up to six months, under a proposed preventive detention law.

If passed, it would be the first time since the fall of former president Suharto in 1998 that Indonesia will see such a law enacted.

The legislation is part of changes to the country's anti-terror Bill being proposed following the recent attack.

Revisions to the law will also finally make it an offence for citizens to join a militant group overseas - such as ISIS - as well as provide a clearer definition of what constitutes terrorism.

The final draft of the Bill was approved by President Joko Widodo and submitted to Parliament for ratification more than a week ago and it might be passed as early as April, according to government sources.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'Six more men with links to Jakarta attack nabbed'. Print Edition | Subscribe