Indonesian police have foiled at least two terrorist attacks planned for the upcoming regional elections, after officers shot dead three suspects last week in West Java. The separate incidents, which took place in Subang last Friday and Depok last Saturday, come just days before more than 150 million Indonesians head to the polls to elect their local leaders on Wednesday.
The suspect killed in Friday’s police ambush on an overpass in Pamanukan, Subang, was carrying a homemade bomb, complete with a detonator, in his backpack, said the police yesterday. He was shot after he lunged at police officers with a knife as he was being apprehended. National police spokesman M. Iqbal said the suspect, identified only as M, was preparing to strike during the June 27 elections, known locally as Pilkada.
Two other suspects, killed in a similar police operation on Saturday morning, also had plans to mount attacks on Polling Day. AS and AZ were gunned down by the police in Depok after they tried to resist arrest. Another suspect, MM, was nabbed later that same day in connection to AS and AZ. According to General Iqbal, the two men, aged 27 and 31, were armed with a commando knife and a loaded FN pistol.
FN is the acronym for Belgium-based Fabrique Nationale, one of the world’s largest exporters of military small arms. Gen Iqbal did not say where the suspects may have acquired the pistol, although he confirmed that both AS and AZ had previously undergone paramilitary training under Indonesian militant leader Bahrumsyah. It is widely believed that Bahrumsyah is in command of a group of South-east Asian militants who have travelled to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
But the authorities have been investigating online chatter picked up in April saying that the Indonesian militant was killed during air strikes in Syria by the United States. Bahrumsyah is a senior figure in the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an Indonesian terrorist network. Both he and JAD leader Aman Abdurrahman were placed on a US terrorist watch list in January last year.
The US State Department also referred to the JAD as a terrorist group that pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The JAD is responsible for the spate of terrorist attacks in Indonesia. These include the January 2016 siege in the capital Jakarta, which killed four bystanders; the twin suicide bombings in East Jakarta on May 23 last year, which killed three policemen; and last month’s series of suicide bombings in Surabaya, in which 14 victims died.
Security has been beefed up in the country, with the government mobilising the military to supplement the police force in a move made possible after Indonesia’s anti-terror laws were amended following the Surabaya bombings. The country remains on edge as the upcoming polls being held in 171 regions are also coming after a South Jakarta court last Friday sentenced Aman to death for inciting the attack in Jakarta two years ago, as well as at least four other JAD strikes across the country.
The court’s decision marked the end of a closely watched trial, which started after the police, in a rare move last August, decided to identify the terrorist leader as a suspect in attacks that he was not directly involved in. Aman has been in prison since 2010, and was serving time for funding a Jemaah Islamiah paramilitary training camp in Aceh, when four JAD militants mounted the Jakarta strike in 2016.
He is said to have ordered his followers to mount attacks from behind bars, purportedly using mobile phones hidden in his cell. Analyst Adhe Bhakti, who has followed the militant leader’s rise to the top of the JAD, told The Straits Times that Aman remains an influential figure and “revenge attacks by his followers can be expected”.