KUALA LUMPUR. Indonesian police have foiled a Mumbai-style terror attack in the heart of Jakarta, which was hatched by a militant from inside a maximum-security prison, a counter-terrorism source told Channel NewsAsia on Thursday.
Iwan Darmawan, also known as Rois, is currently on death row for his role in the 2004 Australian Embassy car bombing in Jakarta and is held at the island prison of Nusakambangan in Central Java.
“Rois planned a Mumbai-style attack in the heart of Jakarta while inside the prison but the police have foiled it,” said the counter-terrorism source who did not reveal details of the location of the planned attacks.
The Mumbai-style attack he was referring to was the 2008 assault on multiple locations in India’s financial capital, including a railway station and two hotels. The attacks, which were carried out by 10 gunmen over four days, killed 166 people.
A source told Channel NewsAsia last month that Rois was able to communicate with militants outside the prison and directed one of them, a man identified only by the initials SM, to procure weapons from southern Philippines for the attack.
SM was said to have bought a total of 18 assault rifles – 17 M16 and one M14 – from the southern Philippines. “SM paid US$30,000 for the 18 guns. Police are still investigating where the funds came from,” said the source. “The 18 guns have not entered Indonesia and are still on Basilan island, Philippines.”
The discovery of Rois’ involvement comes after the arrest of eight suspects from the Islamic State-linked Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) on Mar 23 in raids in several cities in West Java. SM was among the suspects arrested in the sting operation.
The US Department of State has labelled JAD as a “specially designated global terrorist” organisation. JAD is composed of nearly two dozen Indonesian extremist groups that have pledged allegiance to IS’ leader Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi.
The arrests plus heavy military operations in the southern Philippines are believed to have made it difficult for the assault rifles to be moved to Indonesia, said the counter-terrorism source.
He added, however, that two hand guns did manage to enter the country last year and were used in the 2016 Jakarta attacks at a major shopping and business district which killed seven people. SM is believed to have helped fund that attack.
Last year, the then top security minister Luhut Panjaitan revealed that Rois was linked to the Jakarta attacks but he did not say what role he played. That attack last January was “just a test run”, said the counter-terrorism source on Thursday. “They (militants) had plans for a much bigger attack, a Mumbai-style one,” he added.