Nabbed Indonesian militants 'groomed suicide bombers'

11 men held in five days; police say suspects planned attacks during festive celebrations

Children ride a bike past a house with police tape around it, following a raid by anti-terror police in Mojokerto, East Java, Indonesia Dec 20, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

Three Indonesian terrorists arrested last Saturday in East Java province had groomed two suicide bombers and crafted a plan for attacks on churches as well as on police and military command stations, police said yesterday.

The authorities also arrested two more militants on Wednesday in Bekasi, a Jakarta satellite town, making it a total of 11 men arrested in five days.The duo included a Uighur man who police said was willing to be a suicide bomber.

One of the three men nabbed in Mojokerto in East Java province last week was Choirul Anam alias Bravo, a top Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leader who is a bomb-making expert and strategist.

The other two men in that group, Teguh alias Basuki and Indra Idam Wijaya, were Choirul's best recruits and have assembled weapons and bombs.

Police did not say whether the groomed suicide bombers have been nabbed or are still at large.

"The three (Mojokerto) suspects hold no small roles in Asia's terrorism network. They are the core members of Jemaah Islamiah, of Al-Qaeda's South-east Asia operations," the police said in a statement.

"Their planned terror attacks on the Christmas and New Year celebrations were complete and they had groomed two suicide bombers," the statement added.

The arrests come at a sensitive time of the year for Indonesia, with 28,000 security officers deployed to secure Christmas and New Year's Eve celebrations in Jakarta as the country is placed on its highest alert level.

On Christmas Eve in 2000, near-simultaneous attacks on churches in Jakarta by JI terrorists killed 18 people.

Police arrested six militants with Islamic State in Iraq and Syria sympathies last Friday and Saturday.

Police confiscated chemicals and weapons being prepared for attacks by them on the Shi'ite community, and during the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The men were arrested in the Central Java and West Java provinces, and among them was a man groomed to be a suicide bomber.

The arrests followed intelligence tip-offs from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Australian federal police and Singapore, according to national police chief Badrodin Haiti.

The three arrests in Mojokerto were made separately last Saturday.

In raids on the third group of terrorists on Wednesday, police picked up a Uighur man identified as Alli, 35, who used a fake Indonesian identity card.

Police said he probably entered Indonesia two months ago through Batam island and added that he expressed his wish to be a suicide bomber for an attack in Indonesia. Alli had previously spent time in Thailand and Malaysia.

Mobile phones, two laptop computers and ready-to-use bombs were among the evidence seized by police.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 25, 2015, with the headline Nabbed Indonesian militants 'groomed suicide bombers'. Subscribe