JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian police said they safely detonated a bomb on the outskirts of the capital after arresting a female would-be suicide bomber and other suspected Islamic militants who were allegedly planning to attack the presidential palace this weekend.
The thwarted plot is likely to cause particular concern in Indonesia because of the possibility that women with militant network associations are now being recruited into more active roles, including plotting and carrying out attacks.
“This marks a new chapter of terrorism in Indonesia, where the suicide bombing was to be carried out by a woman,” terrorism analyst Ridwan Habib said in an interview with Indonesian TV.
Umar Surya Fana, the police chief of Bekasi, a Jakarta satellite city, said the militants were followed by a police counterterrorism squad as they drove to Jakarta from Solo in central Java. The city is known for its radical mosques and Islamic boarding schools.
Police said two men were arrested after dropping the 27-year-old woman at the boarding house with the pressure cooker bomb. A fourth suspect, a man, was arrested in Solo, said Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono.
The bomb potentially could have caused damage within a wide area, Yuwono said.
People living within a 300-meter (yard) radius of the boarding house were evacuated during the police operation on Saturday.
Police believe the militants were planning to bomb a presidential guard-changing ceremony on Sunday that is a tourist attraction in Jakarta, Fana said.
The woman’s will, which was retrieved by police after the group stopped at a post office to mail it to her family, stated her desire to take part in “amaliyah,” an Arabic term used by extremist groups for attacks or suicide bombings.
“They deliberately chose the target on a Sunday, when many families are hanging out around the national monument and near the palace, with the intention of causing a lot of casualties,” said Habib, the analyst.
Police said those arrested are suspected to be part of a militant network responsible for a bomb-making lab raided last month in West Java province that was operating under the direction of Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian fighting with the Islamic State group in Syria.
He was linked to the attack in January in Jakarta that killed eight people, including the attackers, and several unsuccessful attacks in Indonesia since then.
Those arrested in last month’s raid planned to bomb targets in Jakarta, including the parliament and the Myanmar Embassy.
Muslim-majority Indonesia has carried out a sustained crackdown on militants since the 2002 bombings on the tourist island of Bali by al-Qaida-affiliated radicals that killed 202 people. But a new threat has emerged in the past several years from IS sympathizers.