Policeman in Medan killed during alleged terrorist attack

A file photo of Indonesian police personnel standing guard.
A file photo of Indonesian police personnel standing guard. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - A policeman in North Sumatra was killed after he was stabbed during what appears to be a terrorist attack on Sunday (June 25), just as millions of Indonesians were set to celebrate Idul Fitri.

It also comes just days after a similar knife attack by a terrorist, who wounded a police officer at a Michigan airport in the United States, on June 21.

National police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said two men jumped the fence at the North Sumatra Police Headquarters in Medan at about 3am and set upon a guard post where officers Aiptu Martua Sigalingging and E. Ginting. were stationed.

The two alleged terrorists first attacked officer Aiptu, who was on a rest break inside the guard post, stabbing him to death with a sharp weapon, Inspector General Setyo told reporters on Sunday morning.

"During the attack, Ginting called for help from Brimob officers who were guarding another gate," he added, referring to police commandos from the Mobile Brigade, or Brimob.

The Brimob officers opened fire on the assailants, killing one and injuring the other, after they refused to heed their warning to stop their attack.

North Sumatra Police Chief Rycko Amelza Dahniel said the wounded assailant, identified as Medan resident Syawaluddin Pakpahan, had also travelled to Syria intending to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

According to Inspector General Setyo, the two suspects had received instructions to mount the attack from Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant who joined ISIS and is said to have had a hand in several attacks in Indonesia in recent months.

"Some time ago Densus 88 had arrested three people who are planning such an attack, it seems that their group or other cells, managed to sent two more people to attack the North Sumatra police," he added.

Densus 88 is an elite police counter-terrorism unit that has rounded up more than 40 terror suspects for investigations in recent weeks following a suicide bombing in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta on May 23 which killed three policeman.

Analysts such as Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict director Sidney Jones said that the Indonesian police are often being targeted by Islamic militants because they arrest, and sometimes kill mujahideen, or holy warriors.

The police has been on high alert ever since, mobilising thousands of officers to safeguard the country as millions of Muslims mark the end of the Ramadan this weekend.

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

Indonesia has been hit by a series of terrorist attacks since four militants from the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) mounted a strike in Jakarta on Jan 14 last year.

The JAD is a local terror group that has pledged allegiance to ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for that attack as well as the recent incident in Kampung Melayu.

Of the 41 suspects arrested recently by Densus 88, five have been release after investigations.

Natiional police chief Tito Karnavian had said that of the remaining 36 suspects, only a handful are connected to the Kampung Melayu bombings, while some were about to leave Indonesia for the Middle East to fight for ISIS. "But they all belong to JAD cells that were planning terror attacks."

The latest attack in Medan is the ninth incident this year which saw terrorists attack by stabbing police officers or random victims in public, beginning with the car-and-knife rampage in London on March 22.

It was followed by similar incidents in, among elsewhere, Paris, Jerusalem, as well as a second attack in Britain where three men drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before going on a stabbing spree.