Terrorist cells cooking up liquid explosives
The Jakarta Post
The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) revealed on Wednesday that more and more terrorists are resorting to undetectable liquid explosives like nitroglycerin.
The warning came as the government steps up security ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bali in October. The forum will be attended by the heads of 21 Pacific rim economies, including US President Barrack Obama and China President Xi Jinping.
BNPT operation director Brig. Gen. Petrus Reinhard Golose said liquid explosives were being used by terrorist cells operating in Java, and that the agency has stepped up its efforts to hunt down bomb makers specializing in the material.
'[Terrorists] are not learning how to make bombs by merely using the Internet, because they can still make mistakes. They need mentors. This is our job [to arrest them],' Petrus said in a discussion on Wednesday.
Petrus said that one of the terror suspects who planned to use the material, was Badri Hartono. He hatched a plan to blow up a shopping mall in Surakarta, Central Java, last year using the highly volatile substance.
Police found five nitroglycerin bombs when they arrested Badri and his seven accomplices in Surakarta in September, last year.
The police then conducted a controlled detonation of the bombs at the house of suspect Chomaedi, in Jebres, Surakarta. The explosion damaged a number of houses in the neighborhood.
Also in September, while police were making an arrest on Hasan aka Wendi Febriangga, they found pipes, black powder and nitroglycerin inside his rented house in Sukohardjo, Central Java.
In December, police arrested 11 terror suspects, allegedly led by Abu Hanifah, in Jakarta, Surakarta and Madiun in East Java. The group was planning to attack the US Embassy in Jakarta, the US Consulate in Surabaya, East Java and the headquarters of US-based gold mining company PT Freeport Indonesia in Jakarta.
The police found explosive devices made from nitroglycerin.
On May 15, the police's Densus 88 counterterrorism unit arrested two nitroglycerin bomb experts who were part of Badri's group.
They are identified as Samidi aka Arifin and Slamet Pilih Utomo.
Both Badri and Hasan were among participants in training conducted in Central Sulawesi's Poso by most-wanted fugitive Santoso.
Sydney Jones, a Jakarta-based terrorism analyst from the International Crisis Group, considers Badri's group one of terrorist cells with the best capability in the country.
'Badri has ties to Santoso. Many of his group members are ex-JI,' she said, referring to regional terrorist network Jamaah Islamiyah.
Nitroglycerin bombs are not only used by sophisticated terror groups. One needs less than Rp 1 million [US$101] to cook compounds to produce nitroglycerin.
Sidney said that a website, www.fadliistiqomah.blogspot.com, provided a detailed description on how to produce nitroglycerin by mixing four chemicals.
'Nitroglycerin can be used for dynamite, explosive devices and poison,' according to the website.
A chemical store in West Jakarta offers two of the four substances for a price of Rp 15,000 (US$1.5) per kilogram. 'We do not sell the other two substances [glycerin and sulfuric acid] because those are dangerous. Just try to find it at another store,' the shopkeeper said, adding that the hazardous substances could be available for around Rp 30,000 per kg.
Petrus said that the government would support the counterterrorism agency's efforts to prevent terrorists from using the high explosive bombs.
'The government will increase the budget for us and the police,' he said, without elaborating.
National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Boy Amar Rafli said that the bomb, if properly assembled, could create a blast with a radius of 100 meters.
Separately, BNPT head Ansyaad Mbai said many of suspected terrorists were trained to make nitroglycerin bombs in Poso.
'There are about 300 people who learned how to make bombs there,' he said in Surakarta on Wednesday.
He added that so far police had arrested 100 people.
Abdul Rahman Ayub, a former jihadist who joined the war in Afghanistan said that local terrorists could have been inspired by nitroglycerin bomb-making techniques developed by Russians who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980's.
Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, has waged a campaign against radicalism and terrorism since the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. The authorities have detained more than 750 suspected terrorists and accomplices, and killed more than 65.
The country has not witnessed any major attack since 2009 when terrorists linked to al-Qaeda offshoot, Jamaah Islamiyah, attacked the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta, killing seven people and seriously injuring dozens.
Facts on nitroglycerin
'¢ Invented in 1847, made by adding acids to glycerin.
'¢ Viscous and clear which makes it easy to conceal in lotion or shampoo bottles.
'¢ Physical shock can start a chain reaction that breaks molecules down into carbon dioxide, water and oxygen. The breaking of the bonds between the atoms creates an explosion.
'¢ In August 2006, terrorists tried to use nitroglycerin bombs disguised as drinks to blow up several aircraft flying to the United States. British authorities thwarted the plot.
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