The National Police of Indonesia blamed the suicide bombings and shootings at the Sarinah shopping center in Central Jakarta on a radical group closely affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) movement based in Syria and Iraq.
Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian said the police force had strong reasons to believe that terrorist Muhammad Bahrun Naim was the mastermind behind the attacks, which led to the deaths of two civilians and left dozens injured.
Five suicide bombers and assailants also died in the attacks.
Bahrun is believed currently to be in Raqqa, Syria, the de facto capital of IS.
Tito said intelligence information mentioned IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s instructions for members to commit attacks outside of Syria and Iraq.
“In Southeast Asia, there is a figure named Bahrun Naim who established [radical group] Katibah Nusantara. He wants to become the leader of the Southeast Asian IS branch […] several figures in Asia are competing against each other [for the position],” he said, adding that Thursday’s attacks were conducted to prove to the IS international leadership that he was worthy of the position.
Bahrun Naim is no stranger to the police force. In November 2010, the National Police’s counterterrorism squad Densus 88 arrested him and confiscated hundreds of bullets from his house in Pasar Kliwon, Surakarta, Central Java. The Surakarta District Court sentenced him in June 2011 to two-and-a-half years in prison for violating Emergency Law No. 12/1951 on illegal firearms possession.
The police suspect that after his release from prison, Bahrun traveled to Syria to join IS earlier last year. He was back in the spotlight following the disappearance of Muhammadiyah Surakarta University (UMS) student Siri Lestari, who was alleged to have wed Bahrun Naim in 2014.
Tito said Bahrun Naim had been particularly influential in Java and Sulawesi, the latter being the base of the East Indonesian Mujahideen (MIT) group led by notorious and most-wanted terrorist suspect Santoso.
He further confirmed that the five deceased terrorism suspects were all Indonesians.
“We don’t know whether or not there were [other terrorism suspects] who were able to flee. Up until now we are assuming that there were five perpetrators. However, we will continue to hunt down those related,” Tito said.
According a report published by the British-based news publication, the Independent, one of IS’ propaganda agencies, Aamaaq news agency, claimed on its Telegram channel that IS fighters had carried out an armed attack “targeting foreign nationals and the security forces charged with protecting them in the Indonesian capital”.
Meanwhile, Nasir Abas, a terrorism expert from the University of Indonesia, said he was convinced that terrorists were directly affiliated with and fully funded by IS. He said the aim of the attacks was to announce their existence in the country.
“They want people to recognize that they exist in Indonesia. The threats they have made all this time were real and they are serious about it,” he said, adding that the attacks were somewhat different to several attacks over the last 15 years, such as the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2009 bombings at JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta.
In previous bombings, he said, terrorists targeted Westerners and only aimed to express their hate for the West and its ideologies.
Nasir said that Thursday’s attack was the group’s effort to show its opposition to the West by attacking a US franchise Starbucks Coffee outlet, as well as to distract the government.
“They attacked police officers on duty. It looked like they wanted to protest against the government.”
He said the attacks were also more brutal as they involved multiple perpetrators and shooting in addition to the suicide bombs.
Terrorism expert Al Chaidar said the terrorists were not directly affiliated with IS and did not act on behalf of the main group in Syria.
“They looked like only a small group of supporters who wanted to try a similar attack to the one in Paris,” Chaidar said, adding that the reason behind the attacks might be revenge for the 2010 arrest of terrorist convict Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and the arrests of several other radical group members.
Source: the Jakarta Post