Denpasar. Security forces on the resort island of Bali, twice a target of terrorist bombings, are ramping up their security measures in the wake of a series of arrests of terrorist suspects across the country.
For the past several days, people passing through Gilimanuk Port, the island’s main gateway connecting it to Java, have been subject to strict screening by armed police officers in body armor.
“Heavy security in Gilimanuk has been [instituted] following a number of acts of terrorism across the country,” Comr. Made Prihanjagat, the Gilimanuk subprecinct police chief, said on Monday.
Police in Gilimanuk have also erected concrete blast barriers in front of police posts for protection, as well as posted more armed personnel outside.
Police fear a backlash against them by terrorists in retaliation for the many arrests and killings of terrorist suspects in recent weeks that have crippled their network.
Last year, a police mosque in Cirebon, West Java, was the target of a suicide bomb attack. Twenty-three people, nearly all police officers, were injured, although the bomber was the sole fatality.
This year in Solo, Central Java, three police posts were attacked in separate incidents with grenades, Molotov cocktails and gunfire. One officer was killed while several were injured. The group supposedly responsible for the Solo attacks is said to have been plotting more attacks across the country.
Muhammad Toriq, reportedly the group’s bomb expert, recently surrendered to police and revealed that they had been planning to attack four sites across Greater Jakarta, including the city police headquarters. A second suspected militant, Yusuf Rizaldi, gave himself up to police in North Sumatra three days later.
Toriq and Yusuf’s surrender led to the National Police’s counterterrorism unit, Densus 88, arresting 10 more people as part of the same terror network, National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said. A dozen homemade bombs were seized.
Eight suspects were arrested on Saturday around Solo, Central Java, and one in West Kalimantan, Boy said.
The 10th suspect, Joko Parkit, was arrested on Sunday in Solo. Parkit’s brother, Eko Joko Supriyanto, was shot dead by police in 2009 during raids carried out to hunt down Southeast Asia’s most wanted Islamist militant, Noordin M. Top. Noordin was killed by police later the same year.
The group appears to have been more creative than other terror groups in assembling explosive devices, employing, among other items, plastic food containers and rice cookers.
Found at the house of Barkah Nawa Saputra, a suspect arrested in the most recent anti-terror operation, were “two rice cooker casings with two bomb switches using rigged mobile phones and 20 bottles of chemical substances, electronic devices, 13 detonator caps and dozens of switches,” Boy said over the weekend.
Boy added that two of those arrested, Badri Hartono and Rudi Kurnia Putra, both 45 years old, recruited young men and taught at least one member of the group how to make bombs.
The police seized seven bottle bombs, 11 assembled detonators, pipes for bomb casings, a kilogram of urea fertilizer, 3 kg of sulphur, charcoal, several jihadist books and electronic devices at Badri’s home.
A third suspect, Kamidi, 43, was arrested at his house in Griyan village at 7 a.m., and a fourth, Subarkah Himawan, or Wawa, was nabbed two hours later.
On Saturday afternoon, police detonated four bombs found in Kamidi’s house.
Police also found liquid nitroglycerin bombs packed in plastic bags, four active pipe bombs, two bottle bombs, four kg of sulphur, five kg of gunpowder and several mobile phones at Kamidi’s house.
Additionally, they confiscated 12 homemade bombs along with three rifles, four swords and several jihadist books from the homes of three suspects, Boy said.
Since March, more than 30 suspects have been arrested and seven others killed in a series of raids in Indonesia. All were plotting domestic attacks, and some — aged between 18 and 30 — had attended a military-style training camp in Poso, Central Sulawesi.
The cell is also blamed for an earlier accidental explosion at Toriq’s home in Tambora, West Jakarta, on Sept. 5, where bomb-making material was discovered. The group was allegedly planning to attack either police or Buddhist targets in the area.
Bali has been struck twice by terrorist attacks. The first attack, in 2002, left 202 people dead, mostly foreign tourists.
It is not known whether Bali remains a terrorism target, but in March of this year, five terror suspects who were involved in an armed bank heist in 2010 in Medan that left one person dead, were gunned down in two raids on the island.
Ansyaad Mbai, head of the National Counter Terrorism Agency, said the five men were linked to the Solo group believed to have been behind a suicide bombing at a church in Solo that injured 22 people, as well as the mosque-bombing at the Cirebon Police headquarters.
Ansyaad said counterterrorism forces had been monitoring the members of the Bali group for three months. They were among the plotters planning to attack a cafe on the popular resort island.
It is feared that terrorists could use the 10th anniversary of the 2002 Bali bombing, which falls on Oct. 12, to carry out another attack, police said.
Some 4,000 foreigners are expected to attend a ceremony in Denpasar, Bali’s capital, many of them friends and family of the victims of the attack.
Brig. Gen. Ketut Untung Yoga Ana, the Bali Police deputy chief, said Australians would make up the largest contingent of foreigners attending the memorial event, estimated at around 1,000.
Among the Australians expected to attend are Prime Minister Julia Gillard, former national leader John Howard (in office at the time of the attack), the head of the Australian Federal Police, 25 politicians and 690 senior officials, Untung said.
The ceremony will be held by the Australian government at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Park in Jimbaran.
Australian officials said the ceremony would be the largest commemoration yet, but also the last organized by Canberra. Bali Police will deploy 1,000 personnel to safeguard the event, Untung said.
“I think that [1,000] is enough, because it is a peaceful prayer activity expressing wishes that such a tragedy not repeat itself in the future,” he said.
Concerning Gillard’s security, the police are coordinating with special security forces from Australia, with security measures also being backed by the Indonesian National Police.
The security concerns have also been stoked by heightened tensions in much of the Muslim world over the anti-Islamic movie “Innocence of Muslims,” which has prompted widespread anger and violence across the globe, including in Indonesia.
In Bali, several event organizers have requested additional security for their events, particularly those geared toward foreign tourists.
The annual Sanur Village Festival is one event seeing a heaviers security presence. Police are being assisted by pecalang , Bali’s traditional guards, and the village-level civilian security agency Bangkamdes, organizers say.
“Our [police] personnel who [have been] deployed directly to the field [consist of] 75 people, plus 40 pecalang and 30 from Bangkamdes,” South Denpasar Police chief Comr. Agus Waluyo said.
“This doesn’t include intelligence officers deployed by the provincial police.”
Separately, the recent terror raids are beginning to take a toll on the city of Solo, with some businesses saying they are worried that their city might be the target of another attack.
Liliek Setiawan, chief of economic development at the Solo chapter of the Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Kadin), said that although acts of terrorism in Solo were not new, the number of occurrences marked a sharp increase.
The village of Ngruki on the outskirts of Solo is home to the Al Mukmin boarding school, established by radical cleric and terrorism convict Abu Bakar Bashir.
Police and experts have identified Al Mukmin as a recruiting ground for Islamic militants. Several slain and arrested suspects are graduates of the school.
“Tourism, trading and investment will no doubt be affected, at least in the short term,” Liliek said.
The Kadin official said heavier security was needed in Solo to provide a sense of security, as the Central Java town tries to attract more visitors and declare itself as a top destination for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.
He said foreign investors had begun to question the security situation in the city.
“Economically, Solo is known as a [favorable] town, but socially and politically [it has a] short fuse,” he said.
Suryono, deputy head of the Solo branch of Bank Indonesia, said that so far, the series of anti-terrorist raids and attacks had not affected investment climate there.
If the attacks continue, he said, investors might reconsider putting their money in Solo.
Joko Widodo, the Solo mayor and Jakarta governor-elect, has reiterated that security in the city remains stable.
“Security officials have dealt with it. They have resolved a lot of issues. Just trust authorities. Remain calm and work as usual,” he said.