An Indonesian anti-terror squad has been sent to the Philippines to help identify suicide bombers who attacked a Catholic church on Jolo island, killing 22 people.
National police spokesman Insp. Gen. Muhammad Iqbal told Arab News that three members of the Detachment 88 anti-terror unit and three officials from the national counterterrorism agency (BNPT), the Foreign Ministry and the national intelligence agency (BIN) left for Manila on Tuesday.
Philippines Interior Minister Eduardo Ano had earlier claimed that two Indonesians, a man identified only by his alias Abu Huda and his Indonesian wife, had carried out the suicide bombings on Jan. 27.
However, Indonesia’s Chief Security Minister Wiranto on Monday cautioned the Philippines against making hasty, “one-sided” claims while the investigation was underway.
“They are still determining who the attackers were. There are still a lot of possibilities. So don’t rashly judge that they were Indonesians,” Wiranto said, calling on authorities to wait for the results of the investigation.
Sinyo Harry Sarundajang, Indonesia’s ambassador to the Philippines, said the embassy had been told by the Philippines’ Western Mindanao Command that the military had been unable to identify the attackers.
“We have asked the Philippines national police for more information,” the envoy said. “They haven’t released any DNA test results or CCTV footage from the crime scene to back the claims that Indonesian nationals were the attackers.
“We can’t be certain that there were Indonesians involved in the bombing.”
Al Chaidar, a terrorism analyst from Universitas Malikussaleh in Aceh, told Arab News that he is certain the attackers were Indonesians, despite the government’s claims.
“The government has been denying that suicide bomb attacks carried out by a group of family members, such as the attacks in Surabaya last year, could be replicated elsewhere,” he said, referring to the deadly strikes that targeted churches and the East Java capital last May.
However, he said it is unclear if the bombers were part of the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which was behind the Surabaya attacks. The JAD, a pro-Daesh Indonesian militant group, also carried out a fatal bomb attack in central Jakarta in January 2016.
“It is also still unclear where they were radicalized. But I believe they were not from Poso and part of the eastern Indonesia mujahideen. It is not the group’s signature style to carry out such an attack,” Chaidar said.
A number of Indonesian militants are believed to have been involved in the Marawi battle with Maute militants in 2017.
Indonesian and Filipino extremists have longstanding links, crisscrossing the porous coastal borders between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in Indonesia’s northern Sulawesi Sea and the Philippines’ Sulu Sea.