The recent arrest of several terrorist suspects may be associated with efforts by groups linked with top figures of the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) to diversify the scope of their attacks, according to the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).
BNPT chairman Ansyaad Mbai said on Wednesday that the suspects were connected with each other or with the existing terrorist groups.
“They may look like they operate alone. But we know that two or three of them have connections to the usual suspects,” he said.
The “usual suspects” is a reference to the splinter groups of JI, an organization cofounded by terrorist convict Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, who is now serving 15 years in jail for organizing a terrorist training camp in Nangroe Aceh Darussalam.
“We should stop asking whether this new group is related to the old players or not. I think all of them are the same,” said Ansyaad.
The National Police’s Densus 88 counterterrorism unit arrested 11 suspected terrorists this weekend in separate raids in Jakarta, Bogor in West Java, Madiun in East Java and Surakarta in Central Java.
The group, which the police claim to be members of the newly formed terrorist group Harakah Sunni for Indonesian Society (Hasmi), had alledgedly planned to attack the US and Australian embassies and headquarters of PT Freeport Indonesia in Jakarta.
One of the arrested suspects, Davit Ashary, 19, was released after the police could not find sufficient evidence of his role in terrorism.
Davit was arrested in Palmerah, West Jakarta, along with his brother Herman.
Terrorism expert Taufik Andrie of the Prasasti Perdamaian Foundation said the arrested suspects might be acquainted with one another because they were caught at the same time.
“We can assume the suspects have links with each other. However, the police should be careful,” said Taufik.
He also said there were several questions left hanging over the arrests, particularly why in Jakarta the police only detained three out of four suspected terrorists.
According to Achmad Michdan, a lawyer from the Muslim Lawyers Team (TPM), a suspicious cleric by the name of Basyir, who stayed at Davit’s house before and during the police raid, was also caught by the police but was then released without any further explanation.
“Davit and Herman knew Basyir from Facebook, and Basyir had been staying at their house for two days,” Michdan said.
“I suspect Basyir is an intelligence official who influenced innocent people into undertaking terrorist acts,” he said.
He also said Basyir was implicated in the arrests of Emirat, Usman and Zainuddin in Bogor, West Java.
“Basyir visited the three men just days before the police raid,” he said.
“The police should be honest about Basyir and his whereabouts,” he continued.
With regard to the raid, Taufik also demanded transparency so that the public would be confident that the arrested people were indeed real terrorist suspects.
Asyaad and National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar refused to comment over the issue.
Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority, has waged a full-fledged war against terrorism following the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people, including foreign tourists.
The country was hit by another string of devastating terrorist attacks, with the latest one in 2009 when terrorists linked with JI attacked the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta, killing seven people and permanently injuring dozens.