Indonesia on alert for terror strikes

Armed police officers on patrol at a train station in Jakarta yesterday. Last year, there was a suicide bombing at a police station in Solo on the eve of Idul Fitri.
Armed police officers on patrol at a train station in Jakarta yesterday. Last year, there was a suicide bombing at a police station in Solo on the eve of Idul Fitri.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Security to be 'super tight' as millions of Muslims mark end of Ramadan

Indonesia's national police chief Tito Karnavian has put his force on high alert ahead of the Idul Fitri holiday over concern about possible terrorist attacks, as millions of Muslims around the country mark the end of Ramadan this weekend.

The move came after the Densus 88 counter-terrorism unit arrested two men in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, on Saturday. They were suspected of planning to bomb a local police station.

The duo were among 36 Indonesians with links to the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) terror network who were nabbed in various provinces following last month's suicide bombings at a bus terminal in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta, that killed three policemen.

Of the 36 suspects, only a handful are connected to the Kampung Melayu bombings, while some were about to leave for the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), General Tito told reporters on Tuesday.

"But they all belong to JAD cells that were planning terror attacks."

Gen Tito also confirmed that the suspects had links to Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant who joined ISIS and is said to have had a hand in several attacks in Indonesia in recent months.

 
 
 

Among the items seized during the raids were mobile phones, laptops and a bag of chemicals, as well as propaganda paraphernalia.

Firearms and bombs were also found among some of the suspects' possessions, the Jakarta Globe reported yesterday.

Indonesia has been hit by a series of terrorist attacks since four militants from JAD, which has pledged allegiance to ISIS, launched an attack in Jakarta on Jan 14 last year. ISIS claimed responsibility for that attack as well as the one in Kampung Melayu.

A suicide bombing at a police station in Solo on the eve of Idul Fitri last year raised concern that terrorists are now ready to strike during the Muslim fasting month.

Gen Tito said he has ordered Densus 88 to ensure that security is "super tight" and to be prepared to conduct pre-emptive strikes.

"So, we will act quickly if there is any indication (of a terrorist plot)," he said.

Military chief Gatot Nurmantyo said on Monday that his troops are ready to support the police in fighting terrorism, but added that preventing the spread of radicalism must be a national effort.

"It must be a collective effort involving all citizens, religious leaders, youth and public figures," he said.

The terrorism threat amid a rising tide of radicalism by hardline groups lately prompted Indonesian Ulema Council chief Ma'ruf Amin to call for unity during a visit to the Indonesian military headquarters in Cilangkap, East Jakarta, on Monday.

In his speech, Mr Ma'ruf recounted a decision in 1945 by Muslim leaders to remove the words "with the obligations for Muslims to carry out Islamic syariah (law)" from the first tenet of Indonesia's Pancasila state ideology, which now reads: "Belief in one almighty God."

"The ulemas had agreed to remove the sentence so that Indonesia can become a united country," said Mr Ma'ruf, who is also chairman of the advisory council of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world's largest Islamic organisation. "So, let's protect this country together. Indonesia has to stay united."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesia on alert for terror strikes'. Print Edition | Subscribe