Woman in Jakarta bomb plot was a maid in Singapore

Screen grab from a TVOne interview with Dian Yuli Novi, one of two women held over a suicide-bomb plot to strike the Jakarta presidential palace with a high-grade bomb. The woman said she had worked in Singapore for 11/2 years and was "active" on Fac
Screen grab from a TVOne interview with Dian Yuli Novi, one of two women held over a suicide-bomb plot to strike the Jakarta presidential palace with a high-grade bomb. The woman said she had worked in Singapore for 1 ½ years and was "active" on Facebook there.PHOTO: TVONE

Suspect in plan to hit presidential palace claims she was first exposed to radical Islam through Facebook

A 27-year-old Indonesian woman arrested for allegedly planning to mount a suicide-bomb attack on the presidential palace in Jakarta had worked in Singapore as a maid.

In an interview with local TVOne news channel, Dian Yulia Novi also said she was first exposed to radical Islam through Facebook, while working as a maid.

"On Facebook, I opened profiles of jihadists, who had inspired me," she told TVOne senior reporter Ecep S. Yasa while in police custody. "I did not join any groups, just looked through, but became more curious," she said, adding that she collected articles and audio clips of religious teachings on the Internet.

The woman, from Cirebon in West Java province, said she had worked in Singapore for 1 ½ years for a household with three children aged five, nine and 11. She also said she was "active" on Facebook and spoke English there.

Dian did not say when she was employed, but Indonesian media said she was working in Singapore in 2014. She told the news channel that she had also worked in Taiwan as a maid for three years. While working as a maid, she said she wore a headscarf but not a veil, and had never taken a day off.

 

ONLINE EXPOSURE

On Facebook, I opened profiles of jihadists, who had inspired me. I did not join any groups, just looked through, but became more curious.

DIAN YULIA NOVI, who says she was first exposed to radical Islam through Facebook, while working as a maid.


EASILY INFLUENCED

From the interview, she didn't sound intelligent, but naive. Without critical thinking skills, she was easily brainwashed and used by terrorists to suit their purposes.

PROFESSOR SALIM SAID, a military expert at the Indonesia Defence University, who said female suicide bombers are a new phenomenon in South-east Asia.

Dian is one of two women from a group of seven who were nabbed at the weekend over a plot to strike the office complex of President Joko Widodo with a 3kg high- grade rice-cooker bomb.

They were being prepared to be suicide bombers by a new terrorist cell based in Solo that was set up by Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant who is in the Middle East fighting alongside Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.

During the TV interview on Tuesday, she was asked if she did not fear God's wrath for wanting to hurt people on a massive scale. She said she did it "for the sake of Allah".

Dian said she was introduced to Nur Solihin, who was also arrested in the raid, by somebody on social media, and she chatted with him on Telegram. They got married three months ago. She knew he was married and has children.

The couple never exchanged photographs or met each other. In fact, she did not even turn up for her wedding - she sent a representative for the marriage solemnisation instead, she said.

ISIS uses social media to proselytise and encourage sympathisers to stage attacks at home. Terror analysts say these women were "victims", dragged into terrorism through marriage.

The Islamic authorities in countries such as Egypt and Singapore, for instance, have begun to counter false teachings and use social media platforms to explain and promote proper teachings online.

Professor Salim Said, a military expert at the Indonesia Defence University, told The Straits Times that female suicide bombers are a "new phenomenon in South-east Asia".

"From the interview, she didn't sound intelligent, but naive. Without critical thinking skills, she was easily brainwashed and used by terrorists to suit their purposes."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 15, 2016, with the headline 'Woman in Jakarta plot was a maid in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe