Farouk Arnaz & Nurdin Hasan
Police in Aceh have arrested four men and are hunting for 50 more with suspected links to regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah in the mountainous region of Jalin Jantho in Aceh Besar after police intelligence uncovered a paramilitary training camp in the area.
“More than 100 officers from Aceh Police and Brimob [Mobile Brigade] have been deployed to hunt down about 50 members of an armed group linked with JI in the Jalin Jantho area,” Aceh Police Chief Insp. Gen. Aditya Warman said at a news conference in Banda Aceh on Tuesday.
Aditya identified the arrested suspects as Ismet Hakiki, a k a Sailendra Adisapta, 40; Zakky Rahmatullah, 37; Yudhi Zulfahri, 27; and Masykur Rahmat, 21. Sailendra and Zakky are both believed to be from Banten, while Yudhi and Masykur are from Aceh.
The suspects were taken into custody without a struggle, Aditya said, and were believed to be logistics suppliers for the group.
Police seized books and videos on jihad and about the 2002 Bali bombings, as well as knives, binoculars, banknotes and jackets and shirts with motifs promoting jihad. The group’s members also reportedly wore military-style uniforms during the training.
Aditya said Aceh Police had been monitoring the group’s activities since September, but the group kept moving its base across the four remote districts of Pidie, Nagan Raya, West Aceh and Aceh Besar.
Following the arrests in Aceh, a source at the National Police headquarters, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Jakarta Globe that a province-wide manhunt was also on for an Afghan national who was suspected of being the training camp’s instructor.
Although both Aditya and National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri neither confirmed nor denied the existence of the Afghan instructor, the senior police official confirmed he was hiding among the other 50 trainees.
“He is being hunted down now. We believe he is taking refuge in the forests of Aceh, along with 50 other members of the armed group,” the source said, declining to elaborate further.
“We have his data. God willing, we will arrest him soon enough. We strongly suspect this group is linked with JI or even Al Qaeda.”
The National Police plan to dispatch additional officers to Aceh on the first flight on Wednesday to join the hunt for the suspects.
The Aceh Police deployed a large number of personnel to cover the mountainous area about 80 kilometers east of Banda Aceh, which police believe was chosen as a base because it provided excellent cover.
“I didn’t want to add more risk by deploying a small unit,” Aditya said.
On Monday evening, Aceh Police sent dozens of intelligence officers to monitor the area after a tip-off that shooting exercises were being held along the border with Pidie district.
“The group spotted our officers and chased after them, so the officers were separated. As night was approaching, I decided to send in a bigger unit,” Aditya said.
The sudden change of situation has forced police to turn the intelligence operation into a full-scale manhunt by armed officers. The four suspects were arrested during Monday night’s operation.
“We have their names but we don’t know for sure who they are. Members of groups like these usually keep changing their identities,” Aditya said.
Police blocked all access roads to and from the camp site to prevent the group’s members from escaping.
Aditya, however, acknowledged that two local Jantho residents had been accidentally shot, one fatally, by police during the operation.
Aditya said the bystanders, who were fishing in the area at the Krueng Lintang River, had been mistaken by officers for paramilitary trainees.
Kamaruddin, 37, died from gunshot wounds at the hospital in Jantho, while 14-year-old Suheri was injured in the left leg.
“The shooting occurred because the officers were very vigilant and alert,” Aditya said, offering an apology and his condolences over the incident.