Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja – Straits Times
Jakarta. Terrorists killed or arrested last week were planning attacks on both tourists and police in remote parts of Indonesia, the authorities said on Tuesday.
The Detachment 88 counter-terror unit found some 50 kg of explosives at a house in Dompu, a town near Bima in West Nusa Tenggara, a spot popular with travelers bound for a nearby island that is the home of the Komodo dragon, the world’s largest lizard.
“The site has been used as a training camp to assemble bombs,” National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told reporters on Tuesday. He did not identify the place.
The discovery of the plot came as terrorists in the country target those they call the “near enemy,” such as police officers.
But the plot that was thwarted over the weekend indicates that militants have not lost sight of the “far enemy,” or Western targets, either.
Densus 88, as the unit is called, killed five militants in two raids last Friday and Saturday just outside Dompu.
The terrorists had fled to Bima after killing four policemen in Poso — a hotbed of militants near Tana Toraja, whose population is mostly Christian. Toraja land is one of the most popular tourist destinations on Sulawesi island.
Six others were either arrested or killed in South Sulawesi.
“We’re lucky we managed to prevent the attacks,” said Boy, adding that places of worship and police offices in Toraja in South Sulawesi were also targets.
The militants are linked to the Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), the successor to the regional Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror network.
Boy said months of police surveillance, investigations and interrogation of arrested terrorists had revealed that the Poso cell was expanding its operations to South Sulawesi and West Nusa Tenggara.
Police found a ready-to-use pipe bomb and other bomb-making material in the raids. They are asking residents to help them limit the movement of terrorists by reporting suspicious newcomers early.
“We want to be as proactive as possible,” said Boy.
He said militants often come to a community pretending to be traders to avoid suspicion.
Solahuddin, a noted researcher on extremism, said terrorists are likely to target police and militants in the coming months using small bombs, given their limited resources.
“Now they are going on affordable, cheap bombing operations, or shooting operations,” he said. “They make bombs that cost about 200,000 rupiah ($20).”
Former vice-president Jusuf Kalla, who chairs the Indonesian Red Cross, told The Straits Times: “In fighting terrorism, actions have to be quick and firm. This happens anywhere in the world.”
Reprinted courtesy of The Straits Times