The raids have revealed some alarming facts about the group, particularly its size and wide operating area. These facts signify a rapid transformation in the way terrorism cells in Indonesia operate, communicate and raise funds.
But more alarming details that surfaced on Saturday could mean that Special Detachment (Densus) 88 officers will have to keep their eyes open and be on high alert for weeks to come.
Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar, a spokesman for the National Police, said on Thursday that the suspected terror cell uncovered in the raids was essentially formed to raise funding, through criminal activity, for a terrorist training camp in Poso, Central Sulawesi, headed by Santoso, Indonesia’s top terror fugitive.
“These people are growing, they’re planning, they’re becoming violent. It’s these kinds of threats that we have to address,” Boy said.
He added that the suspects were believed to have carried out at least three bank heists across the country, netting a combined Rp 1.8 billion ($185,000) for their fai, or financing for a jihad or holy war.
“We’re still trying to track the flow of the funds. If they’ve bought assets, we want to know what those are, because the cash that we’ve seized doesn’t amount to that much,” Boy said.
A source inside Densus 88 said that police have been struggling to track down where the money went, with growing concerns that the funds may have already reached Poso, once the scene of a bloody sectarian conflict and in recent years a terrorism hot spot.
“Just to give you an idea how dangerous that amount of money can be [in the hands of terrorists], to launch the 2002 Bali bombing attack, they only needed Rp 160 million. If the [Rp 1.8 billion] is used to purchase guns they wouldn’t get many, But if you make a bomb, it would be very dangerous,” the source told the Jakarta Globe on condition of anonymity on Saturday.
The source said the group was advanced in creating makeshift bombs, citing the bombs confiscated during a raid at a boarding house in Bandung on Thursday.
Police found pipe bombs as well as bomb-making material, a carbine rifle with 20 rounds of ammunition, a silencer, and 9-millimeter and .38-special rounds, indicating that the suspect, identified as Tedi and now on the run, could be armed with at least two handguns.
“They are top-quality bombs,” the source said of the explosives found in Bandung.
During a raid in Jakarta last week, police also found five pipe bombs assembled by two suspects, Sefa Riano, 29, and Achmad Taufiq, 22, who allegedly planned to plant them at the Myanmar Embassy to exact revenge on the country for its treatment of the Rohingya Muslim population.
This week, five more people were caught in Jakarta. Police seized a handgun, 20 rounds of ammunition and Rp 30 million in cash from the suspects.
In Sumedang, West Java, police arrested one person and recovered a handgun, 280 rounds of ammunition, a knife and Rp 6 million in cash.
At a house in nearby Bandung, Densus 88 arrested Haris Fauzi and shot dead three of his associates, identified as Budi, Bang Junet and Sarame.
In Kebumen, Central Java, Densus 88 arrested four suspects and shot dead three while in Kendal, Central Java, two were arrested and a third person, Abu Roban, the suspected leader of the group, was shot dead allegedly while attempting to resist arrest. Police seized an assault rifle with six rounds and a handgun with three rounds from the suspects there.
The group was reportedly linked to three bank robberies this year.
This included the holdup of a Bank Rakyat Indonesia branch in Kendal in January, in which Rp 790 million was stolen.
The same month, a BRI branch in Grobogan, Central Java, was held up for Rp 630 million, and in April a BRI branch in Lampung was robbed of Rp 466 million.
In Lampung, police on Friday arrested four suspects and said they were baffled by the fact that the cell was led by a former vocational teacher identified as Dedy Rofaizal, also known as Faisal.
Politicians expressed concerns about the suspects’ varying backgrounds and professions, saying that it highlighted the national government’s failure to prevent new recruits turning to terrorism.
“It’s really shocking to see the phenomenon that terrorist suspects arrested by officers are getting younger. This means the process of regeneration and recruitment of terrorists is going smoothly and successfully,” People’s Consultative Assembly deputy speaker Hajriyanto Thohari said.
“Arrests continue to be made but terrorist suspects continue to emerge. Therefore serious and systematic measures are needed to break the chain,” the Golkar Party politician said during the week.
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) lawmaker Tjahjo Kumolo also raised concerns about the emergence of “the young, dynamic and energetic terrorists” and stressed the need for better intelligence on militant groups and former convicts.
The Densus 88 source said that the Lampung cell found new recruits by enticing them with a Rp 5 million cut of the heist each. Cell leader Faisal, the source continued, kept Rp 10 million for himself.
Ali Fauzi, a former member of the Jemaah Islamiyah regional terror network who later became a terrorism analyst, condemned the methods used by the new group, saying that they blurred the line between fai and plain robbery.
With seven people killed during the series of raids, Densus 88 will likely face pressure to change its tactics, often criticized as unnecessarily harsh, extrajudicial and potentially fueling more hatred and retaliatory attacks from militant groups.
The killings mean that law-enforcers may have also lost the opportunity to interrogate key players and extract vital information, particularly from the slain Abu Roban, who allegedly used his Koranic recital group, Halaqah Ciledug, to find fresh recruits.
Roban also potentially could have revealed the whereabouts of Santoso, who police described as a bomb-making expert, skilled financier and recruiter.
Santoso reportedly runs several terrorism training camps in Poso and is believed to be involved in most terrorism attacks and those people arrested recently.By Farouk Arnaz & Markus Junianto Sihaloho Jakarta Globe
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