Terror Arrests ‘Foiled Pair of Major Attacks’
Farouk Arnaz & Armando Siahaan
Yogyakarta. The arrest of the country’s most-wanted terrorist suspect, Abdullah Sonata, in Central Java has foiled an attack that targeted Police Anniversary Day ceremonies on July 1, and another strike on the Royal Danish Embassy, the head of the police’s antiterror unit said on Thursday.
Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian, chief of Densus 88, said that according to interrogations of Sonata and seized evidence, the attacks were imminent.
According to another senior antiterror official, Sonata outlined the anniversary day attack in an intercepted telephone conversation in which he dubbed the police “kittens.”
“He said, ‘Let’s attack all the kittens in their nest on their birthday,’ ” said the source, who asked not to be named.
The official said he believed the anniversary day attack would take place at the police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob) headquarters in Depok. The ceremonies were scheduled to be attended by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, National Police Chief Gen. Bambang Hendarso Danuri and foreign dignitaries.
Julian Aldrin Pasha, a presidential spokesman, said Yudhoyono hoped that Wednesday’s arrests would deal a significant blow to the international terrorist networks operating in Indonesia.
Sonata, a close associate of slain terrorist mastermind Noordin M Top, was sentenced to seven years in jail in 2006 for hiding Noordin and for possessing illegal firearms. He was released in April 2009 on good behavior.
Sonata and another suspect arrested on Wednesday, Sogir, have been linked to a terrorist network based at a training camp in Aceh, which police have been targeting since February.
The Aceh network was comprised of militants from several groups with links to the Middle East and the southern Philippines. The camp was being used to prepare for Mumbai-style assaults on Indonesian targets, police said.
The pair was arrested in raids in and around Klaten, Central Java, by Densus 88. A third suspect, Yuli Harsono, was killed by officers during the operation.
Tito said police had confirmed the information about the possible attacks while questioning Sonata and Sogir. “We are sure that they chose to target the police in revenge for the antiterror raids in Aceh, and they wanted to bomb the Danish Embassy because of the Prophet Muhammad caricature fiasco,” he said at Brimob headquarters in Yogyakarta.
Police sources suspect Sogir had been coordinating the attack on the Danish Embassy, while interrogators are trying to get information from Sonata and two other suspects about where they allegedly hid explosives and 10 AK-47 assault rifles that had been stockpiled for the attacks.
Sonata and Sogir were flown to Jakarta on Thursday.
Noor Huda Ismail, a terrorism analyst from the Institute for International Peacebuilding, said the recent arrests would certainly disrupt terrorist networks. “When they’re detained, they talk and reveal information,” he said. “That’s why the police have been able to make a series of arrests.”
However, other analysts said the country’s fight against terrorism was far from over.
Sidney Jones, from the International Crisis Group, said police were not fighting just one group, but a network of allied cells. “What we saw in Aceh was an alliance of several different groups, which are now dispersed,” she said, adding that each group could potentially form new alliances. “The situation is extremely fluid.”
Police on Thursday declared Abu Tholut, a k a Mustofa, a Muslim cleric linked to hard-line preacher Abu Bakar Bashir, as their new No. 1 suspect.