Indonesian police brings JI bombmaker Zulkarnaen, nabbed in Sumatra, to Jakarta

Police escort 57-year-old Zulkarnaen upon arrival at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, on Dec 16, 2020.
Police escort 57-year-old Zulkarnaen upon arrival at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, on Dec 16, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Top Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leader Zulkarnaen, arrested last week in Indonesia after 18 years on the run over the 2002 Bali bombings, was among 23 suspected militants flown to the capital Jakarta on Wednesday (Dec 16).

With their hands and feet cuffed and wearing orange uniforms and full face masks, the suspects were escorted under the tight guard of the elite counterterroism squad, known as Detachment 88, as they arrived at Jakarta's main Soekarno-Hatta International Airport from Lampung province, in Sumatra.

The suspects, all linked to the Al-Qaeda-linked JI network, were nabbed in recent weeks in the Sumatran provinces of Jambi and Lampung.

They will be taken to a detention centre near Jakarta for further questioning.

National police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan told reporters that Zulkarnaen, also known as Aris Sumarsono, was an instructor at a military academy in Afghanistan for seven years and helped to make the bombs in the deadly Bali attacks which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

"(He) has the ability to assemble high explosive bombs, firearms and has military capabilities," Mr Ahmad said, adding that Zulkarnaen was also the "mastermind" behind a series of other attacks in Indonesia.

Since May 2005, he has been listed on an Al-Qaeda sanctions list by the UN Security Council for being associated with Osama bin Laden or the Taleban.

Another high-profile suspect on the flight was Upik Lawanga, who allegedly made bombs for the JI network.

Upik has been on the run since 2005 after he was named as a suspect in an attack that killed more than 20 people at a market in Poso, the hotbed of Islamist militancy in Central Sulawesi.