3 held by Indonesian police over alleged terror plot on lawmakers in Riau

A 33-year-old man was arrested over a plot to attack local lawmakers in the Riau provincial capital Pekanbaru. Two other men are also being held for questioning in connection to the case.
A 33-year-old man was arrested over a plot to attack local lawmakers in the Riau provincial capital Pekanbaru. Two other men are also being held for questioning in connection to the case.PHOTO: RACHEL LEES

A 33-year-old man has been arrested in connection with a plot to attack local lawmakers in the Riau provincial capital Pekanbaru.

Indonesian counter-terrorism police arrested the suspect, identified by the initials MNZ, in a raid at Riau University’s Faculty of Social and Political Studies last Saturday (June 2).

Two other men – RB, 34, and OS, 33 – who were picked up separately last Saturday are being held for questioning as witnesses, police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said on Sunday in response to queries from The Straits Times.

MNZ belongs to the Riau chapter of the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) terrorist group, Mr Setyo said, and all three men are former students of Riau University.

Asked if MNZ is linked to the May 16 attack at the Riau provincial police headquarters in Pekanbaru, Mr Setyo said MNZ had contacted one of the attackers, Pak Ngah, several times. Pak Ngah was killed by police.

The Straits Times understands that RB, who like MNZ was found by police on campus, and OS, who was detained in nearby Kumbang district, may have also been involved in the plot to target local lawmakers.

 
 

The police said MNZ allegedly is capable of handling triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a military-grade explosive, traces of which were found at the site of last month’s suicide bombings in Surabaya which took 14 lives.

The police seized TATP, two pipe-bombs, two bows, eight arrows, an air-soft gun and a grenade when they arrested MNZ.

MNZ is believed to have shared bomb-making instructions via the Telegram messaging app.

Indonesian police have intensified counter-terrorism operations across the country following a spate of attacks on Sumatra and Java in recent weeks.

Besides the Pekanbaru police headquarters, three churches and the police headquarters in Surabaya 

were also attacked on May 13 and 14 by JAD militants loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Late last month, three suspects were nabbed separately in Ogan Komering Ulu Regency (South Sumatra), Pekanbaru and Pesawaran Regency (Lampung) in connection with the Riau attack.

National police chief Tito Karnavian said last week that  37 suspects had been rounded up in connection with the Surabaya suicide bombings. Four others were killed during raids.

The recent attacks have led the Indonesian Parliament to push through long-overdue revisions to the anti-terror Bill. These were first tabled in January 2016 to beef up laws amid rising extremism in the country.

Amendments passed on May 25 include allowing the police to make pre-emptive arrests and hold terror suspects longer for investigations, having the military support the police in counter-terrorism efforts at home, and making it an offence to join foreign militant groups such as ISIS.