Indonesia police yesterday said they were on their highest terror alert after it was revealed that militants had planned attacks in several cities this month, targeting facilities vital to the economy, senior police officers, high-ranking government officials and anyone with a different faith.
"They planned to make Indonesia one of the international news highlights," police spokesman Inspector-General Anton Charliyan told a news conference.
The targets included two cities in Java and one each in Sumatra and Kalimantan, he said, adding that there were links between militants arrested last week in Central and West Java and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Police are stepping up the hunt for other militants while analysing documents, digital evidence such as Internet messages as well as information from interrogations of the nine arrested militants.
Police chief Badrodin Haiti said the terror plots were uncovered with help from the Australian Federal Police, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Singapore authorities.
The papers seized in the arrests last Friday and Saturday included a note with a message asking whether funds sent from Syria had reached Indonesian militants. Mr Anton said this was being followed up. Among those arrested was a suicide bomber named Zaenal.
Investigations also revealed that the No. 1 point person for ISIS operations in Indonesia is a man based in Solo, Central Java, Mr Anton said. He declined to elaborate.
"We remain on high alert as their communications say the timing of the attacks is in December, but historically speaking, we experienced attacks that took place at Christmas. We decided to raise alerts for Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve," he said.
On Christmas Eve in 2000, near simultaneous attacks on churches in Jakarta by Jemaah Islamiah militants killed 18 people.
The police disclosure about this month's planned attacks came as Australia and Indonesia agreed to step up cooperation on cyber intelligence, tracing terrorism financing and technical assistance.
The announcement followed security talks between Australian Attorney-General George Brandis and Justice Minister Michael Keenan and Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Luhut Pandjaitan, General Badrodin as well as other high-ranking officials yesterday.
Indonesia is also looking at Australia's legislation on terrorism as Jakarta moves to amend its anti- terrorism law in 2016 to give the authorities more room for preventive measures.
"No country is immune from terrorism but I assure you we are working very hard to tackle this issue," Mr Luhut told a news conference.
Mr Anton said other clues from last week's arrests showed that Indonesian Bahrun Naim, a former convict who went to Syria to fight with ISIS, had been actively communicating with the militants in Indonesia. He gave no further details.
Bahrun Naim once served 21/2 years in jail in Indonesia for storing 533 assault rifle bullets and 32 revolver bullets.