Bomb-makers getting more sophisticated: Ansyaad Mbai

Bomb-makers getting more sophisticated: Ansyaad Mbai

Terrorism remains a real threat in Indonesia, and the target has shifted to the “near enemy”, Indonesian police chief of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), Ansyaad Mbai told Khabar Southeast Asia in an exclusive interview last week. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar]

The latest terrorism-related arrests net some long-time militants with a grim new group name and deadlier bombs

Terrorism remains a real threat in Indonesia, and militants are becoming more sophisticated at bomb-making, Ansyaad Mbai, head of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), told Khabar Southeast Asia in an exclusive interview Thursday (October 4th).

“With this latest case, the terrorism threat is still real,” Ansyaad said, referring to a string of arrests in September of suspects who claim they belong to Al-Qaeda Indonesia.

No evidence has been found of links to international terrorists. “We have found no evidence of that. But they did indeed plan to form a network called Al-Qaeda Indonesia,” he said.

Suspects picked up in a series of incidents in late September in Solo, Central Java and Depok, West Java appear to have been more creative and sophisticated than other terror groups in assembling bombs, employing, among other items, plastic food containers and rice cookers.

Police seized liquid nitroglycerin bombs packed in plastic bags, four pipe bombs, two bottle bombs, 4kg of sulphur, 5kg of gunpowder and several mobile phones.

“They have become more sophisticated. It can be seen from the latest evidence which was found: they have prepared the liquid bomb. In fact, our explosive experts considered that the bomb has higher capacity than the previous homemade bomb.” Ansyaad said.

Old group, new name

In a series of raids starting on September 22nd, police detained nine terrorist suspects: Badri Hartono, Rudi Kurnia Putra, Khumaidi, Fajar Novianto, Barkah Nawah Saputra, Triyatno, Arif Pamungkas, Joko Priyanto alias Joko Jihad, and Wendy Febriangga alias Hasan.

Other suspects are still being sought by police, he said, stressing, however, that they do not represent a new group.

Some of the detainees are former members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), a hardline Islamic group once led by cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.

“So it’s not new at all. There are even some who have served prison time,” he said.

“Since the 2002 Bali bombings, Jemaah Islamiyah has been broken down into numbers of small groups or cells, but the cells are still in touch with one another. Later, when the name changed to Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid, their leader is still Abu Bakar Bashir,” he explained.

“Therefore it needs to be understood that even though they have been changing their name many times, these actually are not new groups. Each group still has the old figures and recruits new members.”

“At a certain level, these groups can reunite to carry out another action. Like now, we can see each group has its plan and carries it out in several different places… So you can’t say it’s new or, as some say, fourth generation. It’s not relevant to classify it in that way,” he said.

New targets

Their goals remain the same, but their targets have shifted over the past decade.

“Before the emphasis was the West, the ‘far enemy.’ Now it’s more the ‘near enemy’. Why? Because they have experienced — over these more than ten years — that in fact what most obstructs their movement is the ‘near enemy’, and the enemy that is nearest to them is the police,” he said.

Their goal, he added, is to establish an Islamic state based on their version of Sharia Islam.

“Careful when you write Sharia Islam…it’s ‘their version of Sharia Islam’,” he said.

Authorities have found no evidence of foreign money flowing to radicals in Indonesia. But 2012 saw evidence of multiple approaches employed to raise money at home.

“It appears that their pattern now is to focus domestically, stealing over the Internet, or using the conventional way, which is by robbing banks or gold shops or whatever they can,” he said.

In May, authorities arrested alleged hackers Rizki Gunawan in Jakarta and Cahya Fitriyanta in Bandung, who managed to break into a multi-level marketing website and obtain almost 5,937 billion rupiah ($617,150) – money used, according to police, to fund terror activities including militant training in Poso and the bombing of a church in Solo last year.

On Monday (October 8th), Cahya Fitriyanta’s trial began in West Jakarta District Court. He faces multiple charges including hacking, money laundering and supporting terrorism.

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