Indonesia police station blast kills 2 in suspected suicide attack

Policemen stand guard at the site of a blast at a police station in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, on Dec 7, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
An explosion was heard on Wednesday at a police station in the capital of West Java province. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM GOOGLEMAP
Bandung police official said the explosion occurred just after a man with a knife went into the police building at about 8.20am. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - A suspected suicide bomber attacked a police station in Indonesia’s West Java province on Wednesday morning, killing himself and a police officer, and wounding 10 people.

Nine of the injured were police officers, national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo told a press conference after visiting the crime scene at Astana Anyar police station in Bandung.

Based on a fingerprint and facial recognition assessment, the perpetrator has been identified as Agus Sujatno, alias Agus Muslim, who, together with another militant Yayat Cahdiyat, launched an attack using a pressure cooker bomb in the courtyard of a government office in Bandung on Feb 27, 2017. Yayat was killed in the incident.

Agus was jailed for four years and released in September 2021. While in detention at the high-security island prison of Nusakambangan in Central Java, Agus was “difficult to talk to” and “avoidant”, said General Listyo.

“He is affiliated to JAD Bandung or JAD West Java, “ he added, referring to the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a supporter of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror group (ISIS), which has morphed into the country’s leading terror organisation.

A shaft of papers protesting against the draft of Indonesia’s new criminal code, which Parliament ratified on Tuesday, was found at the crime scene, Gen Listyo said.

West Java police chief Suntana had told local channel Metro TV that a blue motorbike believed to be used by the attacker was also found at the scene, with a note attached slamming the criminal code as “an infidel product” and saying “let’s eradicate the law enforcers”.

The criminal code or KUHP, among other things, bans criticism of the sitting president and state institutions, an offence which carries up to three years in prison. The complaint, however, must be filed by the President himself.

The police said that the attacker brought two bombs to the scene, but only one was detonated.

Metro TV cited residents as saying there had been a loud explosion, while Kompas TV showed footage of the damage at the entrance of the police station and closed roads in the area.

Bandung police official Aswin Sipayung told Kompas TV that “a man trespassed while wielding a sharp weapon; he was trying to get through as the police officers were going through the morning roll call”.

Singapore condemned the bombing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on Thursday.

It added there are currently no reports of any Singaporeans affected by the bombing, and wished the injured a speedy and full recovery.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, has faced attacks by militants, who have on occasion targeted the police.

JAD has been blamed for, among other attacks, the church bombings on Sulawesi island in March 2021, and on Jolo island in the Philippines in 2019.

It is an offshoot of South-east Asia’s most notorious terror network, Jemaah Islamiah, whose former spiritual leader – convicted radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir – had pledged allegiance in 2014 to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the slain leader of ISIS.

In 2019, Indonesia created a tough new anti-terrorism law in response to suicide bombings linked to JAD.

Dr Jaleswari Pramodhawardani, the deputy head of politics, law, security and human rights affairs of the Executive Office of the President, said: “The perpetrators are strongly suspected of being an old terrorist network that rejects democracy and modern laws such as the criminal code. The government strongly condemns any act of terrorism, whatever the motive is, because it is contrary to human values. This incident shows that there are still people who carry out acts of terror by using bombs that can cause large casualties. This action clearly cannot be tolerated, whatever the reason.”

She stressed in a statement that the government monitors networks of radical groups and organisations, including individuals who are affiliated and have sworn allegiance to terrorist organisations, so perpetrators will not be able to escape the legal process.

Senior researcher Muh Taufiqurrohman, from Jakarta-based think-tank Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies, said Wednesday’s incident could be a “revenge attack” by a former inmate and member of JAD South Bandung, who may have plotted the attack with others.

He said future attacks could not be ruled out, so “the Indonesian government needs to watch the movement of former terrorist inmates, who are not rehabilitated, closely to prevent their regrouping and recidivism”.

“They want to show that they still exist and are loyal to (ISIS). The attack also serves as a warning to the police that they will never stop attacking them,” he told The Straits Times.

Mr Taufiqurrohman also said the attack served as a call to former JAD members, non-rehabilitated former inmates, and even ordinary young people to uphold Islamic law and support ISIS.

He added: “It’s like saying, ‘Wake up, we have an obligation to do it, If I can do it, you can do it too’.”

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