Indonesia Braces for More Terror Attacks

Publication: Terrorism Focus Volume: 2 Issue: 12

Judging from the nervous reports emanating from U.S. and Australian advisories, Indonesia is bracing itself for an imminent renewed cycle of anti-Western bomb attacks. “We continue to receive a stream of credible reporting” the Australian advisory posted on June 10 suggesting that terrorists are in the very advanced stages of planning attacks in Indonesia” []. It followed an earlier warning from the U.S. embassy in Jakarta advising Americans to be prepared as of June 1 for an attack expected around noon on an unspecified date, as part of a strategy by extremists to “conduct bomb attacks targeting the lobbies of hotels frequented by Westerners” [].

Indonesian police continue their warnings of the imminent strike by two key members of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah, the Malaysians Noordin Top and Azahari bin Husin. These were part of the group responsible for a number of attacks in Indonesia, including the October 2002 Bali bombings, the 2003 bombing of the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta, and the 2004 bomb outside the Australian embassy. The tally of fatalities of these bombings totaled 234. “According to our intelligence feedback” Indonesian police chief Da’i Bachtiar stated, as reported in the daily Media Indonesia, “terrorists Azahari and Noordin are now in Jakarta and ready to blow up their targets after failing to do so in May” []. The two Malaysians are believed to be in the vicinity of Jakarta recruiting followers for their next operation.

The security authorities do appear to be being tested. According to the Indonesian daily Koran Tempo, quoting a military communiqué, Indonesian soldiers on June 13 were hunting in West Java for five cars believed to be carrying bombs made by recruits of Noordin Top []. Two days later came the report that Indonesian police had found a partly assembled explosive device at a south Jakarta train station [].

That Indonesia is likely to face a threat from increasingly sophisticated terrorism comes from the results of investigations into a recent armed attack on a mobile brigade post in Indonesia’s eastern province of Maluku (see Focus II, issue 10). State run news agency Antara reported that evidence from the capture and interrogation of several suspects involved indicate that the planners came from outside Maluku province (although they used “local people in carrying out their missions”) and was not simply a product of local communal tensions. The attack was mounted by highly trained guerrillas, who were allegedly part of a network responsible for a series of violent incidents in the provincial capital of Ambon, and who evidenced links with al-Qaeda []. The same diagnosis — outside agents provocateurs aiming to stir up communal violence — has been made for the serious event of May 28 when twin bomb attacks on a market in Tentena, Central Sulawesi killed 22 and injured 50, the deadliest terror attack in Indonesia since the 2002 Bali bombings. So far the finger is pointing at Jemaah Islamiya, or at least local groupings inspired by Jemaah Islamiyah’s agenda. The site for igniting tension is well chosen, since Tentena lies in an area that witnessed three years of Muslim-Christian fighting which, up until a peace agreement in late 2001, accounted for 2,000 fatalities [].