Indonesian counter-terror squad Densus 88 on Friday arrested three suspected militants who were plotting to attack a police station in East Java province, police alleged.
Police tied the three to seven suspected members of an Islamic State-linked local militant group, Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), who were arrested in West Java and Banten provinces on March 23. An eighth suspect was killed during the police operation last month.
The newest suspects in custody are all from Lamongan regency in East Java and were planning to target a local stationhouse, a spokesman for National Police told BenarNews.
Densus 88 arrested suspects Zainal Anshori and Adi Bramadinata from their motorcycle at 9:30 a.m. Friday and Zainal Hasan at his house about 30 minutes later, police spokesman Martinus Sitompul said.
JAD is led by imprisoned Indonesian Muslim cleric Aman Abdurrahman, whom the United States has branded as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.
According to Martinus, suspect Zainal Hasan purchased firearms in the southern Philippines with Suryadi Mas’ud, one of the seven suspects arrested on March 23. Two of the weapons were used in a terrorist attack in Jakarta on Jan. 14, 2016, that left four civilians and four assailants dead. IS claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Police are searching for three other guns,” Martinus told Benar.
Links to terror leaders
The three men who were arrested Friday have links to Aman and Iwan Darmawan (alias Rois), who are imprisoned at Nusakambangan, a penal island in Central Java.
Aman is serving nine years for his involvement in a training camp in Aceh province run by extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah in 2010. The U.S. government, in issuing the terrorist designation, stated that Aman authorized the 2016 Jakarta attack while in prison and issued a fatwa encouraging Indonesians to join IS.
Rois is on death row for his involvement in a car-bomb attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta that killed nine people in 2004, and has been linked to the Jakarta attack.
Martunis said Rois has been able to plan terror attacks from prison, including the one in Lamongan foiled by Friday’s arrests.
Martunis played down a report published this week by Channel News Asia out of Kuala Lumpur that said Indonesian police had foiled a “Mumbai-style terror attack in the heart of Jakarta,” referring to the November 2008 terrorist assault in several locations in India’s financial capital that killed 166 people.
The report quoted an unnamed counter-terrorist official saying that Rois had hatched the large-scale plot from his prison cell and was able to communicate with militants outside prison. According to the report, Rois directed a man identified by the initials “S.M.” to procure weapons from the southern Philippines.
“SM paid U.S. $30,000 for the 18 guns. Police are still investigating where the funds came from,” the source told Channel News Asia. “The 18 guns have not entered Indonesia and are still on Basilan island, Philippines.”
S.M. was among the JAD suspects arrested in raids in West Java on March 23, the report said.
“There is no information about that yet,” Martinus, the national police spokesman, told BenarNews, when asked about the report.
Brig. Gen. Hamidin, who directs Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency, said he could not identify a potential attack of that magnitude in Jakarta.
“However, each plan can almost always be foiled by police,” he told BenarNews.
Terrorism expert Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), said that even though IS was losing ground in Syria and Iraq, its followers were carrying on with their efforts in Indonesia.
The movement of militants was concentrated in Java but their networks have spread to other places in Indonesia, she said.
“There will be continued efforts to conduct attacks,” she told a seminar in Jakarta on Thursday.
Friday’s arrests add to the list of suspected terrorists arrested by Densus 88 in 2017. Officials said it arrested at least five suspects in the first two months of the year and at least 16 in two incidents in March. In addition, at least six suspects have been killed since December.
In 2016, at least 160 people with alleged ties to IS were arrested in Indonesia, according to National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian.