By B. Raman
The Indonesian Police seem to have foiled a bomb plot, which was to target Christians on Good Friday ( April 22,2011), following the arrest of 19 suspects—many of them university students — during an investigation into some recent incidents in which unidentified elements had sent improvised explosive devices (IEDs) concealed in books to some persons in different parts of the country, including police officers.
While the arrests were made initially in connection with the investigation of the book bombs, the interrogation of those arrested led to the detection of a plot by some of the very same elements to cause an explosion in a Catholic church at Tangerang on the outskirts of Jakarta during Good Friday prayers through a timed IED to be activated through a mobile phone. Confirmation of the details of the plot as ascertained during the interrogation of some of the arrested suspects came when the police recovered about 150 kilos of explosives at a spot near the church.
The Agence France Press (AFP) has quoted Anton Bachrul Alam, a spokesperson of the National Police, as saying: “This is a new cell. The mastermind had planned to activate the bombs on Friday at 9:00am (0200 GMT) using timers.” The police are reportedly investigating whether any of those arrested might have had a link with an incident last week in which a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a mosque located within the compound of the police lines in the city of Cirebon in West Java, injuring 30 people with no reported fatalities.
According to some reports, those involved in the plot to cause an explosion inside the church, had also planned to target an army weapons warehouse at Serpong in the same area. Anti-terrorism officials have been quoted by news agencies as saying that they have so far no evidence of any link between these men and known terrorism or Islamist groups. Investigators seem to be treating a 2006 explosion in an A & W restaurant in East Jakarta, a subsequent bicycle bomb explosion at Bekasi, , the book bombings and the Good Friday plot as stand-alone terrorist incidents or conspiracies with no established or suspected links with other terrorist incidents with established links to Jemma Islamiyah and other similar organizations. The Cirebon bomb suicide bomber has had links with JI elements. At the same time, the police seem to believe that the persons detained for interrogation were not self-motivated, but motivated by unidentified clerics through the Internet.
However, Ansyaad Mbai, head of Indonesia’s National Counter-Terrorism Agency, has said that “all the suspects in those cases are somehow related to mainstream figures or groups.” He gave the examples of the Indonesian Islamic State (NII) movement, the JI, Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid and other radical groups. “There are two types of radical groups, the terrorist and non-terrorist.They seem to be separate cases, but at one level such as in Aceh, they’re united and all the groups meet there. They are inspired by the mainstream groups.”
The Indonesian Police would do well to investigate whether the suspects recently arrested could have been from a new breed of volunteers inspired and indoctrinated by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In this connection, reference is invited to my article of July 7, 2010, titled “ Singapore & Al Qaeda” at http://www.southasiaanalysis.org/%5Cpapers40%5Cpaper3910.html
Pepi Fernando, 30, the alleged mastermind, financier and bomb maker behind the Good Friday bomb plot and book bombs,is reported to be married to a member of the staff of the National Narcotics Agency (BNN). He is a graduate of the Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University (UIN) with a major in Islamic Religious Education. He and two others were arrested in Aceh. He was originally from Sukabumi in West Java. He was reportedly running a small business establishment selling watches and books. He is reported to have told the police that he learnt about bomb-making from Internet sites. He is also reported to have admitted that he assembled the bomb that exploded without causing any casualties outside the Research Center for Science and Technology (Puspiptek) in Serpong in March last and a bomb that was found subsequently at Cibubur.
The 19 suspects were arrested at seven different places — One in Rawamangun [East Jakarta], three in Aceh, five in Bogor, three in Kramat Jati [East Jakarta], five in Pondok Kopi [East Jakarta], one in Bekasi and one in Tanggerang. It has been reported that of the five arrested in Bogor, four were related to each other.