Islamic Boarding School Siege Enters Third Day
The siege at an extremist Islamic boarding school in Indonesia dragged into a third day on Wednesday.
Armed members of the security forces still being prevented from entering the compound of the Umar bin Khatab Islamic Boarding School in Bima, Sumbawa, after a homemade bomb exploded on Monday evening, killing school treasurer Firdaus.
Reports indicate the deceased was an alleged Philippine-trained bomber, who was instructing students in bomb-making when the device exploded.
School officials and armed students have prevented police from entering the building since Monday’s explosion.
Eleven people have been taken in for questioning, but police on Wednesday were forced to admit that at least two teenage boys were mistaken as students from the school.
The boys had been watching the siege from a rice paddy and had run off when police approached.
Members of the media are being kept at least 500 meters from the school.
The school came to police attention late last month, when a 16-year-old student was arrested for allegedly stabbing a police officer to death.
Police believe he belonged to Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), a hard-line group founded by convicted terrorist Abu Bakar Bashir.
Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Alie said on Wednesday that he would support the National Police in their efforts to investigate the explosion.
“If anyone related to the bomb blasts is found to be a member of a radical group, then the boarding school must be closed and the students must be re-guided,” Suryadharma said.
He admitted the school was known to the ministry, which had previously failed in its attempts to change the perspective of the school.
A ministry team had been allowed to enter the school compound but was refused access on a second attempt, he said.
Abdul Kadir Karding, chairman of House Commission VIII, which oversees social and religious affairs, said he supported the police’s methods of attempting to end the siege.
“A persuasive approach is a must. If we use a violent approach, the police can be cornered. Certain groups would use it [against them],” he said.