Police confirm Syrian link to terror attacks
Fedina S. Sundaryani, Hans Nicholas Jong and Ganug Nugroho Adi
The Jakarta Post
National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti has confirmed that investigators strongly believe that orders and funding to commit the terrrorist attacks in Central Jakarta on Thursday came directly from the Islamic State (IS) movement in Syria.
'Based on what we have detected, there were orders and funding from there [Syria],' Badrodin replied when asked whether former terrorist suspect Muhammad Bahrun Naim, who is believed to be with IS in Syria, orchestrated the attacks.
Although Badrodin declined to disclose the methods IS used to transfer funds to radical groups in Indonesia, he said that it was possible that the money used for logistics changed hands several times to avoid detection.
At 10:55 a.m. on Thursday, explosions and gunfire broke out near the Sarinah shopping center on Jl. Thamrin. The location is about a kilometer from the State Palace and surrounded by government and private offices, hotels and malls. According to the police, two gunmen were shot dead during a standoff with the authorities and three died in suicide bomb attacks in front of Starbucks cafÃ© in the Cakrawala Building and at a traffic police post on Jl. Thamrin.
The attacks also resulted in the death of two civilians, including a Canadian national, and left dozens injured.
One of the gunmen has been identified as Afif, alias Sunakim, who had previously been convicted for terrorist-related activities. Afif was reportedly part of a radical group led by terrorist suspect Sulaiman Aman Abdurrahman.
However, the police currently believe that Afif was following orders from Bahrun, who is allegedly influential among terrorist cells in Java and Sulawesi.
Former friends of 32-year-old Bahrun from his hometown in Surakarta, Central Java, remember him differently. Abdullah, 33, a former student of Sebelas Maret University in Surakarta, described Bahrun as someone who enjoyed using computers and was even the head of the university's Computer Science Student Association.
In November 2010, the National Police's counterterrorism unit (Densus 88) arrested Bahrun and seized hundreds of rounds of ammunition at his house in Pasar Kliwon, Surakarta. The Surakarta District Court sentenced him in June 2011 to two-and-a-half years in prison for violating Emergency Law No. 12/1951 on illegal firearms possession.
Another former associate, Rahayu, who is close to Muslim activists in the region, said that although Bahrun was not well known he was charismatic and networked easily. She added that 'after he was released [Bahrun] returned and announced he wanted to join IS in 2014. He was one of the hundreds of Indonesians who traveled to Syria to join IS. I have not heard from him since'.
The police have been continuing follow-up operations since Thursday's attacks. On Friday, Densus 88 arrested terrorist suspect Fajrul bin Saelan, alias Fajrul, 27, and his family in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan. Ambon-born Fajrul was reportedly found to be in possession of a message from someone named Abu Mumtaz, that contained advice on how to commit jihad.
Also on Friday, police and military personnel engaged in a shoot-out with the Santoso-led East Indonesia Mujahiddin (MIT) in Poso, Central Sulawesi, which left one suspected terrorist dead.
Meanwhile, National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief Sutiyoso also confirmed that instructions for Thursday's attack had been sent directly from Syria.
The agency had already detected the possibility of an IS-backed attack in November last year, he said.
'[We detected a possible] attack on Jan. 9, but in reality it did not occur and instead occurred on Jan. 14,' the former Jakarta governor said at the BIN headquarters in South Jakarta.
N. Adri and Ruslan Sangadji from Balikpapan and Palu also contributed to the story.
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