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Safe heaven?: People relax on Sunday in front of the house in Palmerah, West Jakarta, where police arrested two alleged terrorists in Palmerah Barat on Saturday. The brothers who were arrested “got along well with their neighbors and they never conducted any suspicious activities,” according to a neighborhood leader. (JP/P.J. Leo)
As details of this weekend’s terror crackdown emerge, one of the 11 people arrested — Mustofa Bilal alias Abu Hanifah — has been linked to slain master bomb maker Noordin M. Top.
Terrorism expert Al-Chaidar of Malikussaleh University in Aceh said that Hanifah might have been a former student of Noordin, who was one of the masterminds of the 2002 Bali bombing and was shot dead by police in 2009.
“There are reports that Hanifah learned to make bombs from Noordin in Banten and that he allegedly helped hide Noordin from the police in Surakarta,” Al Chairdar said.
The police have thus far refused to confirm over Hanifah’s ties with Noordin, a Malaysian national.
Residents of Jl. Lawu Timur IV in Mojongsolo, Surakarta, said that Hanifah, or Mus as residents called him, rarely blended in, despite a penchant for organizing sermons and discussion groups. “I often saw him organize sermons for people, especially for men,” a resident who declined to be named said on Sunday.
The resident said that Hanifah often grew enraged if his neighbors held parties or drank alcohol. “He once disbanded a group of people who got drunk during a celebration party in his village,” the resident said.
Another resident, Supriyadi, said that the house where Hanifah lived belonged to his father, Baron, 70.
However, Supriyadi said that he was not aware of Hanifah’s activities inside the house, as most guests who came to visit were not from the neighborhood. “In the house was a mushola, but we don’t know for sure what they usually did in the house,” Supriyadi said as quoted by Antara new agency. A mushola is a small prayer room.
According to Wiwit, who said he was one of Hanifah’s closest associates in the neighborhood, the suspected terrorist graduated from a university in Surakarta.
During a raid at Hanifah’s house on Saturday, the police found homemade bombs that were ready to be detonated, bomb making materials and assorted firearms.
Officers from the National Police’s Densus 88 counterterrorism unit also arrested Agus Anton Figian, 31, in Madiun, East Java, this weekend. Agus graduated from Jember University in East Java with a degree in mathematics in 2004.
According to Agus’ neighbors, many residents regularly saw him carrying a gun. One neighbor, Bambang, said that he saw Agus carrying a gun and dressed in camouflage fatigues one night outside his house in Sewulan, Madiun.
Although Agus has reportedly been identified as one of the leaders of a terrorist group, the police explained how the 11 suspects currently in detention were connected.
Others arrested in the roundup included Davit Ashary, 19, and Herman Setiono, 22. The brothers are residents of Palmerah, West Jakarta, and were described by neighbors as devoted Muslims.
“Davit and Herman got along well with their neighbors and they never conducted any suspicious activities,” Udiyanto, the head of their neighborhood unit, said.
Udiyanto said that the brothers were living with their mother, Siti Mariyam, a factory worker. Their father died 10 years ago. “Davit is a friend of my son. I never suspected anything about him and his brother,” Udiyanto said.
According to Udiyanto, the police confiscated bomb making material from the brothers’ house after their arrest.
Nita, 35, who lives near the brothers, said on Sunday that Herman, who was unemployed, was a religious man who was often visited by people wearing Islamic garb who would pick him up for what she described as “religious activities”. “I don’t know where they went afterward. They didn’t go to the nearby mosques.” she said.
Meanwhile, Arif Fahriansyah, the nephew of terrorist suspect Sunarto Sofyan, or Narto, who was arrested in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, insisted that his uncle was not part of any terrorist group. “I wonder why they always associate a man with beard with terrorism. My uncle is not a part of any terrorist group,” he said.
Arif said that his uncle worked at a delivery service in Tanah Abang, and lived at his parents’ house. (aml)
11 men arrested in four cities
The National Police’s Densus 88 counterterrorism unit arrested 11 suspected terrorists who were reportedly former members of the Harakah Sunni for the Indonesian Society (Hasmi).
The group allegedly planned to attack the US and Australian embassies and the headquarters of PT Freeport Indonesia in Jakarta; the US consulate in Surabaya, East Java; and the National Police Mobile Brigade special operation unit headquarters in Srondol in Semarang, Central Java.