Depok bomb blast aborts sinister plans

Khabar Southeast Asia

Depok bomb blast aborts sinister plans

Residents of Depok, West Java watch on Sunday (September 9th) as police investigate the scene of a bomb blast the night before. The explosion injured at least six people, including a man suspected of making the bomb. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar]

The men exposed by an accidental bomb blast in Depok, West Java were planning acts of terrorism, police say.

One surrendered at a police station, wearing a suicide belt and pining for his family. Another lies in a police hospital, unrecognisable, burns covering 70% of his body.

Just prior to an explosion at 9:30 pm Saturday (September 8th), the two men met at a house in Beji, Depok that advertised itself as an orphanage but turned out to be a bomb factory.

The blast at the so-called Pondok Bidara Orphanage Foundation injured at least six people, most of them neighbours who lived just behind the bomb site.

The victims are Nanut Triaman (62), Bagus Kuncoro (20), Taufik (32), Wulandari (27), Fajruddin (27), and a man originally identified only as Mr X because the severity of his injuries made immediate identification impossible.

Suspected of being a bomb maker, Mr X was brought to the Kramat Jati Police Hospital in East Jakarta for intensive treatment, according to Boy Rafli Amar, the spokesman for the Indonesian National Police.

“His right hand was damaged badly. His neck was hit by some kind of hard object, and his face has been badly burned,” he told reporters Sunday (September 9th) in Jakarta.

After the explosion, neighbours saw two men escape by motorcycle. “We’re monitoring hospitals and clinics because one of them is believed to have suffered burns,” Boy said. “We strongly believe that the suspects were involved in assembling the bomb.”

Police did not have to wait long to nab one of the fugitives. At around 5:30 on Sunday (September 9th), 32-year-old Muhammad Toriq – also spelled Toriq in some reports — turned himself in at Tambora police office in West Jakarta.

An explosives belt was strapped to his body, which he handed to police, along with a gun and ammunition, Jakarta police spokesman Col. Rikwanto said.

“He turned himself in because he missed his family,” Rikwanto said, according to The Jakarta Globe.

Planned suicide attack

Prior to his surrender, Thorik had considered blowing himself up at a police office or a Buddhist centre, Boy later told reporters in an update on the unfolding events.

According to Boy, the suspect planned to detonate a suicide bomb at one of four potential targets: Depok Mobil Brigade (Brimob) headquarters, the National Police Detachment 88 office in Jakarta, a police building in Salemba, Central Jakarta, or a Buddhist centre. The planned attack was a deluded attempt at revenge for the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

Thorik had escaped from the police twice before he surrendered. He first escaped on September 5th after a neighbour reported smoke coming from his house in Tambora, West Jakarta.

The smoke turned out to be a cloud of explosive material that had accidently spilled. When police arrived at the house, Thorik was gone, but they took his mother Iyot, 71, his wife Sri Haryani, and his three-year-old son Mohammad Gabriel to the police station.

Thorik was at the “orphanage” in Depok when the bomb exploded but fled before police arrived.

Earlier, police thought that the critically injured man was Thoriq. But his identity has since been confirmed as Anwar, a relative of suspected militant Arif Hidayat who was arrested Monday (September 10th) in Bojonggede, Bogor, West Java, according to media reports.

A deadly “orphanage”

Based on the severity of his injuries, police think Anwar was making the bomb, perhaps even holding it, when the explosion occurred.

From the scene, police also seized three grenades, six pipes filled with explosive material, one Beretta pistol, homemade guns, small-arms ammunition, 7kg of potassium chlorate, nails, five 9-volt batteries, detonators, cables, and electronic switches.

Police also found some books related to terrorism and a goodbye letter at the scene.

A banner with the words Pondok Bidara Orphanage Foundation hung from the front of the building. Another sign indicated the place was an alternative “cupping therapy” clinic. However, local residents never saw any patients or orphans.

According to Joko, 60, a neighbourhood drinks seller, the person who rented the room had been living there since last month.

“I have never seen any activities because the gate was always locked. I tried to see the person to ask for the monthly rent, but I could not enter,” said Nurhassanah, 37, a community leader whose husband heads the neighbourhood watch (Rukun Tetangga/RT).

Boy said police had been monitoring activity at the house. It is not new for terrorists to use a business front to mask criminal activities, he said.

“Legitimate business activities have been used by terror suspects in many cases. In Wonosobo, for instance, they used their place to sell clothes,” he explained.

Boy said that people need to be aware of newcomers in their neighbourhoods because many terror suspects associate with the community and carry out normal activities.

“It is very important for the community chief to ask for and collect a copy of the identity card from new residents in their community,” he said.

New generation of terrorists shadowing Indonesia

Khabar Southeast Asia

New generation of terrorists shadowing Indonesia

Boy Rafli Amar, National Police spokesman, told reporters on Tuesday that the youthful terror suspects in Solo had links to older extremist organisations. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar].

The young men who carried out the Idul Fitri attacks in Solo belonged to a new terror network with links to established groups, police say.

A new breed of radical extremists is posing a security threat to Indonesia, officials and analysts say, citing a recent series of attacks in Solo as an example.

Two young men, Farhan Mujahidin (19) and Mukhsin Sanny Permady (20), were shot dead by counterterrorism police during an August 31st raid, after allegedly staging assaults on police posts. A third suspect, Bayu Setiono, is under arrest.

According to Brigadier General Boy Rafli Amar, spokesman for the National Police, the men appear to belong to a newly-formed extremist group – but one which is affiliated with long-standing terror networks, and with the hardline Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) organisation.

Farhan, for instance, was the stepson of convicted terrorist Abu Umar, currently in prison for smuggling firearms from the Philippines to Indonesia, and for organising a paramilitary training camp in 2008.

In 2010, police say, Farhan resided in the Philippines, where his stepfather obtained support for launching a terrorist attack, including plans to attack the Singaporean Embassy in Jakarta.

Bayu also had a connection with the Philippines, according to police. They say he was involved in smuggling firearms and had joined the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.

Weapons seized during the August 31st raid included an Italian-made Beretta pistol stamped “PNP [Philippine National Police] property”. According to Boy, the suspects underwent physical training at Mount Merbabu in Boyolali district, and may have earlier received training in combat strategy at other camps in Aceh or Mindanao.

He said they targeted Solo, also known as Surakarta, because they were familiar with the location. But the city was just the starting point for a broader campaign of terror attacks.

“As they used to study at the Al-Mukmin Ngruki Islamic boarding school, they are familiar with the location and have contacts there where they can hide. Therefore, they could remove any trace of their presence more easily,” Boy said.

Andi Widjajanto, a security analyst from the University of Indonesia, told Khabar Southeast Asia on Wednesday (September 5) that terrorists have been targeting police and the Indonesian government ever since the execution of three Bali bombers in November 2008.

Amrozi, Ali Ghufron and Imam Samudra were found guilty and sentenced to death for their role in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people. Speaking by phone to Khabar, acting JAT leader Mochammad Achwan denied that the terror suspects were members of his organisation.

“I have asked JAT members whether they knew the two suspects or not, but they said that they did not know them,” he said.”I am very upset that officials always link terror suspects with our organisation”.

JAT was founded by the firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, convicted in June 2011 and sentenced to 15 years in jail for helping to organise a jihadi training camp in Aceh. He is viewed as the chief ideologist and spiritual mentor of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), implicated in the Bali bombings.

On Friday, Indonesian counterterrorism chief Ansyaad Mbai said that JAT was linked to the Solo attacks as well as a planned assault on the Indonesian Parliament in Jakarta.

“There are several small groups (whose) underground works are not related to each other, but they all came from the JI and the JAT,” he told the AFP news agency, citing information revealed by Bayu during interrogation

Small change is good business ahead of Lebaran

Khabar Southeast Asia

Small change is good business ahead of Lebaran

Rukmiyati, 34, and her customers do a money transaction on Jalan Gajah Mada in Central Jakarta on August 14th. Despite the fee charged, many Indonesians visit street peddlers to exchange their large bank notes for small ones for gift giving on Idul Fitri.[Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar]

Small gifts of money make Idul Fitri sweet for youngsters. Many Jakarta residents get their small change for a small fee on the street, though some frown on such businesses.

As the Chinese do on Chinese New Year, it is common among Indonesian Muslims for older relatives to give small sums of money to younger relatives after the children wish them a happy holiday on Idul Fitri

That tradition has created a business opportunity for people such as Iphan, 32, and Rukmiyati, 34, who on a recent day were selling small change – exchanging large denomination notes for small ones, for a small fee – to customers on Jalan Gajah Mada in Central Jakarta.

“I’m actually new in this business. I just started three weeks ago. In one day, I can make 300,000 rupiah ($32) in profit,” Iphan, who is originally from Medan, North Sumatra, told Khabar Southeast Asia.

“But it depends on how many customers I get per day. Basically, I can make 5 to 15 % profit from each transaction,” he added.

Iphan explains that every day he receives as much as 10 million rupiah ($1,053) from an agent, who takes a cut of his earnings.

First, he needs to go to the bank to exchange the big notes for small ones: 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000 rupiah notes (10 cents, 50 cents and $1.05).

Because of the high demand at this time of year, Bank Indonesia, in collaboration with nine other banks, opened a mobile small-change service out of a vehicle at the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta, which operated from July 23rd to August 16th.

“Every day, I need to wait in line at the small-change service in the National Monument (Monas) Park, Central Jakarta. But unfortunately, we are only allowed to change up to 5 million rupiah ($527),” Iphan said.

“So that is why I also change the money with an agent,” he continued.

Even though banks make change for free, many Indonesians patronise street vendors for their small cash needs because of the convenience.

Rukmiyati, who has been working in the business for the last four years, told Khabar that she would make less profit if she changed the money with an agent.

She said she prefers to queue at the bank to get small change, even if she has to do it twice in a single day, because the agent will take an additional cut of her profit, shaving a 15% margin to 5%.

“That is why it is better to change it in the bank,” she said.

There is another reason to rely on banks, authorities say: they can vouch that the currency is real.

Questioned about the source of her capital, Rukmiyati said she did not know where the agent got the money. She believes it came from a bank.

Difi Johansyah, a spokesman for Bank Indonesia, told Khabar that informal small-change services are not banned because there are no regulations against them.

“We are aware that there are informal money changers in public places such as traditional market or side streets. Bank Indonesia will not prohibit them from doing business. However, we suggest the citizens not change the money with an informal money changer service because the authenticity is not guaranteed,” he explained.

Many Muslim religious leaders from the Indonesia Council of Ulema (MUI) consider money changing in the street “haram”. Such transactions are forbidden in Islam because of the fees charged. But MUI has not issued any fatwa banning the practice among the Muslim community.

Iphan, who worked as a laborer for 10 years in Jakarta before losing his job six months ago, told Khabar that he sells small denomination banknotes to support his family.

“If MUI said it is haram, then that is not really my problem. I have to provide food for my family. It is very difficult to find a proper job these days, and I heard about this seasonal business so I decided to join with my friend,” he said.

Many small-change vendors in Jalan Gajah Mada wear face masks, in part because they feel a little shame, Rukmiyati said.

However, “The main reason is to avoid breathing the bad pollution as big bus and trucks are passing by this road,” she said.

Islamist vigilantes lead teens into trouble

Khabar Southeast Asia

Islamist vigilantes lead teens into trouble

A July 29th police notice posted on the door of Café de’Most bans it from operating based on local laws governing entertainment venues during Ramadan. [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar]

A hardline group that raided a bar in late July recruited local teens for the illegal attack. Two of them now face prison time.

Jakarta residents are applauding police for arresting members of a hardline group that raided a bar for serving alcohol during Ramadan, and enlisted teenagers for the illegal vigilante attack.

About 150 members of the Prophet’s Defender Council (Majelis Pembela Rasulullah, or MPR) swarmed into Cafe’ de’Most in South Jakarta late on July 28th and ransacked it, shattering windows, breaking bottles, and assaulting employees.

Police apprehended the group as they left the club on motorbikes, and seized a machete, a sickle, four samurai swords, a golf club and four wooden poles, as well as musical instruments stolen from the bar.

“We arrested 62 people. But we released 39 juveniles without charges because they were not directly involved in attacking the bar,” South Jakarta police chief, Senior Commander Imam Sugianto, told Khabar Southeast Asia.

Among the 23 not released were two juveniles who were carrying a sickle and a machete, Imam said.

“They could face up to six years in prison under the Emergency Law No 12, 1951 for carrying weapons, and two and half years for destroying private property,” he said. Also arrested was MPR’s 29-year-old leader, Habib Bahar bin Smith, who organised the attack and was able to influence minors to take part in it, according to Imam.

Bahar and another adult identified only as S.Y. have been charged with the same offenses as the teenagers but face up to 12 years in jail terms because they are adults.

The remaining suspects were charged with aggravated assault on several bar employees and could face up to five and a half years in prison.

Mia Trisnawati, a waitress at a bar in South Jakarta, was happy to hear it.

“I have always been afraid to work during the fasting month because a number of hardline groups have threatened bars and night clubs,” Mia told Khabar.

“But I think that the police have done something different to protect their citizens by arresting the hardline group that acted as if they were the police with their raid,” Mia said

Vigilante organisations, notably the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI), say they are acting to protect Islam, but critics say their tactics are violent, illegal and also redundant, as authorities have already moved to limit the activities and operational hours of nightclubs and other entertainment venues during Ramadan.

In fact, police shut down Café de’ Most on July 29th because it was selling alcohol during Ramadan in violation of local regulations.

The involvement of minors in the raid is a cause for special concern. Arist Merdeka Sirait, Chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection, said parents and officials must declare a campaign against violence in society and make efforts to deter teenager involvement.

“Basically, teenagers tend to copy their idol’s behaviour. Therefore, it is very important for us, parents, teachers, government and religious leaders, to show how to live in peace and omit violence from daily life,” he told Khabar.