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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Indonesian officials loathe to involve army in crackdown fearing it could 'harden radical opposition to government'

Indonesian officials loathe to involve army in crackdown fearing it could 'harden radical opposition to government'

Death toll rises to 27 : Video shows terrorist with backpack as police ask public to identify terrorists using photos of severed heads
October 3, 2005

The suspected suicide bomber, top, enters the restaurant just before the explosion, caught on a video camera. Police later issued pictures of the three suicide bombers.

The suspected suicide bomber, top, enters the restaurant just before the explosion, caught on a video camera. Police later issued pictures of the three suicide bombers.

MIM: The openly stated fear that getting the army to crackdown on terrroism in Bali shows that the armed forces may prove to be a formidable part of the problem. Indonesia and Malaysia, where the bombers are believed to have come from, are the two of the world's most populous Islamic countries. Reports indicated that many in the army sympathised with the radical Islamist agenda of the terrorists as did law enforcement and the judicial system. The short sentence meted out to the mastermind of the Bali bombing,is an indication that the Indonesia government believes that radical Islamists could attempt to destablise the country as was recently tried in Uzbekistan, where Muslim riots against the imprisonment of alleged terrorists left 700 dead.

The Indonesia's government's 'reassurances' that they will not outlaw Jemaat Al Islamiyah, a known terrorist group, and the lenient sentences handed out to the previous Bali bombers, indicates some tacit complicity on the part of Indonesia authorities and terrorist groups in an attempt to maintain the status quo. The situation is reminiscent of how Saudi Arabia has tolerated and supported Al Qaeda, until international pressure forced them to crackdown in cases where Saudi interests were also at stake. The existence of Al Qaeda strongholds in Waziristan Pakistan, which amount to terrorist reservations, is another example of how Muslim countries are 'tolerating terrorists' in the hopes of avoiding all out confrontation with radical Islamists.

Indonesian officials acknowledge a terrorism problem which also involves Malaysia, jailed Jemaat Al Islamiyah cleric Abu Bakr Bashir found refuge there but the question remains as to if they will be able to crackdown, or merely go through the motions until the next attack. Most troubling is the Indonesia chief of police's outing with convicted Bali bomber Al Imron, to a Starbucks whre he was spotted drinking coffee during what was termed a shopping excursion. Police chief Gorries Meres claimed he was trying to obtain information, which begs the question as to how the recent attacks could have been carried out by people who are believed to have been involved in the 2002 attacks, and who would have been known to Imron. Posters which celebrated the Bali attacks and Imron's outing to Starbucks appeared on Islamist websites in Indonesia.

The government's claim that they cannot crackdown 'because there is not enough evidence to ban them' is an acknowledgement that the popular support which groups like Jemaat Al Islamiyah, whose goal is to turn all of Southeast Asia into an Islamist state), enjoy in all sectors of society means that more attacks are inevitable. Minority groups like the Hindis on Bali are under attack, (as are Christians), and the underlying message is that all 'foreign' influence will be met with violence.

Were Bali attacks part of the "Great Ramadan Offensive"

"...The United States and several other governments have issued warnings of a high terrorist threat to foreigners in Indonesia as the holy Muslim month of Ramadan arrives early next week.

A report issued in early September warned that bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, may be planning a series of attacks in October, dubbed "The Great Ramadan Offensive"..."

Bloody attacks recall 2002 bombings linked to al Qaeda

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Police hunting the masterminds behind suicide bombings in Bali that killed 19 people and injured at least 132 others have shown photos of the bombers' severed heads.

The weekend attacks -- two at cafes near Jimbaran and one at a restaurant in Kuta's main square -- came just ahead of the third anniversary of the 2002 nightclub bombings that killed more than 200 in Bali.

At a news conference, Bali's police chief, Maj. Gen. Made Mangku Pastika, showed photos of the bombers' dismembered heads in the hope that people would come forward to identify them. The bombers appeared to be in their early 20s.

The chief also showed video of one bomber entering Raja's restaurant in Kuta wearing a backpack and detonating. (Watch amateur video that captured one of the blasts)

Security has been tightened across Indonesia since Saturday's attacks, which targeted tourist hot spots on the island.

The latest attacks killed at least two Australians, one Japanese and four or five other foreigners whose nationalities have not been determined, hospital officials said. The other victims were Indonesian.

Earlier reports put the death toll higher because body parts were entering the morgue in separate body bags, police said.

Among the wounded are 68 Indonesians, 20 Australians, six Koreans, four Americans and four Japanese, with five others unidentified, according to Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari.

Police said they believed that the bombers were not working alone and were searching for those who may have helped plan the attack.

He said the bombs weighed about 22 pounds (10 kg) each and contained ball bearings and other shrapnel.

Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, a top Indonesian anti-terror official, said the attacks apparently were planned by Southeast Asia's two most-wanted men, Malaysians Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Mohamed Top.

The men are believed to be connected to Jemaah Islamiya, the regional arm of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.

The two fled from Malaysia to Indonesia after a crackdown on militants following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, The Associated Press reported officials as saying.

The latest Bali bombings prompted Jakarta's police chief, Inspector General Firman Gani, to raise the capital's security alert system to its highest level.

The explosions happened around 8 p.m. Saturday (8 a.m. ET) in Jimbaran and Kuta, the shopping and entertainment hub of the island. Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa said the blasts occurred about 10 minutes apart.

Video of the scene in Kuta showed the windows of several upscale stores shattered, with glass littering the street, and the awning of Raja's noodle house blown askew.

Sean Mulcahy, an Australian journalist in Bali, said Jimbaran and Kuta were "chock-a-block" with tourists celebrating a holiday weekend. It was also a school holiday for Australians, and many had traveled to Bali for the weekend, he said.

Bali is still recovering from the bombings in Kuta that killed 202 people on October 12, 2002, which also were blamed on Jemaah Islamiya. Most of those killed were Australian and Indonesian.

"People were just starting to build up confidence again and to have this happen was devastating for the locals, but I think it's the nail in the coffin for people coming to this place," Mulcahy said.

Shortly after the blasts, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono addressed the nation on state television, expressing his concern and condemning what he called a terrorist attack.

"These were clearly acts of terrorism because the victims were indiscriminately chosen and the targets were public areas. As president and on behalf of the Republic of Indonesia, I strongly condemn these inhuman acts," he said.

He said he had received intelligence information in July about terrorist elements in Malaysia and the Philippines planning to target Indonesia and had increased security in Jakarta and Bali as a precaution.

Recently, Yudhoyono issued a warning that terrorist cells inside the country were still active despite hundreds of arrests.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard also expressed sorrow and anger.

"How sad we are that the pursuit of a legitimate, simple overseas holiday has once again been brutally interrupted by this violent, mindless act of terrorism," Howard said.

Noting that the nation was just recovering from the 2002 attacks, he said, "I think we should see this as primarily an attempt to wreak havoc and cause fear and create instability inside Indonesia.

"I primarily see this as an attack on Indonesia and the democratic instincts of the Indonesian people," Howard said.

Saturday's attacks left tourists filled with "fear and terror" and they were fleeing their hotels in Bali with suitcases in hand, Mulcahy said.

But reporter John Aglionby Sunday reported that locals were carrying on with business as normal.

U.S. condemns attacks

The explosions also were condemned by the United States.

"The United States condemns the terrorist bombings today in Bali that claimed innocent lives and injured many more. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.

"The United States stands with the people and government of Indonesia as they work to bring to justice those responsible for these acts of terrorism. We will continue to work together in our common fight against terror."

The United States and several other governments have issued warnings of a high terrorist threat to foreigners in Indonesia as the holy Muslim month of Ramadan arrives early next week.

A report issued in early September warned that bin Laden and his top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri, may be planning a series of attacks in October, dubbed "The Great Ramadan Offensive."

On Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta reiterated its warden's message issued in May, which said the threat of terrorism was high and that Americans there should be vigilant.

The island of Bali is a Hindu enclave in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Natalegawa told CNN he was confident authorities would find the attackers.

"We know what it takes to bring the perpetrators to justice because our success rate ... has been rather good," he said.

Journalists John Aglionby and Maria Ressa contributed to this report


Police compile list of possible suspects

Monday Oct 3 18:11 AEST

Indonesian investigators have compiled a list of possible names of Saturday's suicide bombers and have sent body samples to Jakarta for DNA testing and identification.

Meanwhile, Indonesian security bosses suggested the three bombs might have been triggered remotely by mobile phones by three accomplices still at large, possibly on Bali.

In addition, analysts speculated that the attacks were the work of a splinter group within the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror organisation, known as "Thoifah Muqatilah", or the combat unit - possibly led by Malaysian bomb experts Azahari Husin and Noordin Mohammad Top.

As Australian Federal Police (AFP) joined the probe, sources at Denpasar police headquarters said detectives were working off a list of people they suspected were the dead bombers.

Indonesian newspapers carried graphic pictures of their severed heads with a public call for information on their identities.

"We have some names," a senior source told AAP.

The grisly pictures of three heads, released by Bali police chief General Made Mangku Pastika overnight, showed clean-shaven young men and were clearly identifiable.

One of the heads was a hollow-cheeked man with his eyes wide open.

The head of disaster-victim identification for the bombings, Dr Soegeng Hidayat, said DNA samples had been sent to Jakarta where detectives would seek matches against blood samples from the suspects' families.

Separately, Indonesia's anti-terror desk chief Major General Ansyaad Mbai said mobile phone calls from three accomplices might have triggered the explosions, which ripped through restaurant diners in Kuta and Jimbaran, killing 27 people including up to four Australians.

"Based on our past experience, we think each suicide bomber was accompanied by another who triggered the bomb," he said.

"It means there are at least three other perpetrators on the run."

Pastika also said there were at least six people in the bombers' group and security had been tightened across Bali in a bid to stop them escaping.

Mbai said there may be many more as the bombers would have required a surveillance operation, map makers and someone to measure out steps in the operation.

The 2002 Bali bomb investigation netted more than 30 suspects, he added.

Specialist AFP bomb experts were on Monday working alongside Indonesian officers at the two-storey Bali forensic headquarters to work out how the bombs were triggered.

One AFP officer, who asked not to be identified, said he was sceptical about the possibility of a mobile phone detonator, but the investigation was still in the early stages.

Leading terror expert Sidney Jones said the bombers may have belonged to a radical new militant brigade with the Arabic name Thoifah Muqatilah, or the "combat unit".

The group, which Indonesian police have called a "suicide brigade", may have been recruited by from the ranks of the al-Qaeda-linked JI network.

"I don't know for certain," she said.

"I have heard it referred to as a splinter group, but I've also heard they are recruiting from within Jemaah Islamiah."

Jones said the bombers may be veterans of vicious ethnic conflicts in areas such as central Sulawesi and Ambon, where Muslim-Christian bloodletting has raged for years.

"They have experience of fighting in those sort of conflict areas," she said.

Jones praised the fast response by police and said it was "very, very, very difficult to prevent attacks that involve suicide bombers".

Authorities also needed to look beyond immediate investigations and look deeper into the networks behind the attacks to help prevent similar bombings in future, she said.

"It's not a question of closing down the radical pesantrens (Islamic schools)," Jones said.

"They need to develop some system of monitoring teaching in all the schools - public and private - so they know something more about what is going on in there."

Above all, Indonesia's fledgling democracy must resist the temptation to involve the army alongside police in the hunt for Azahari and Noordin, because it could further harden radical opposition to the government, Jones said.

"That would be a major mistake. You don't want to go back to a military solution."

Mbai said the bombers were unlikely to have been recruited alone and there were likely more suicide attackers awaiting an opportunity.

"There are others who have the same radicalness as they have," he said.

He defended the government's refusal to outlaw JI and other radical groups, saying there was not enough evidence to ban them.


Bombing Death Toll Rises to 27, 133 Wounded, Hospital Says

Oct. 3 (Bloomberg) -- The death toll from three suicide bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali rose to 27, according to Sanglah Hospital, where bodies are being kept.

The hospital's estimate, released by its crisis center, is higher than that of Bali police, who earlier revised down their death toll estimate to 22 from 25. The devastation caused by the three packages of TNT packed with ball bearings have made it difficult for authorities to count the toll.

Three suicide bombers detonated devices in two restaurants in Jimbaran, an area of beachfront hotels, at dinner time, Bali police chief I Made Mangkupastika said at a briefing yesterday. A third bomb went off in Kuta, scene of October 2002 bombings in which more than 200 died. The bombs probably weighed about 10 kilograms, he said.

Ansyaad Mbai, the nation's anti-terrorism chief, blamed Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda-linked group the government holds responsible for the previous attacks, according to the British Broadcasting Corp. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

"Terrorists are targeting people in open public areas since hotels have done a good job in applying security measures," President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono told reporters in Bali yesterday.

Of the people killed, 12 Indonesians, two Australians and a Japanese have been identified, said Jane Lumy, a spokeswoman for Sanglah hospital in Denpasar. The death toll includes the three bombers. Trans TV showed film of a suspected bomber walking through a restaurant in Kuta before yesterday's explosions. Kuta is 30 kilometers (18 miles) away from Jimbaran.


Bali attracted 1 million tourists by the end of August, Indonesia's tourism ministry said. About 240 tourists from Germany, South Korea and Japan had cancelled their trips to the island by Oct. 2, the ministry said. Tourism accounts for about 5 percent of the Southeast Asian nation's economy.

Australia's death toll from the blasts may rise, with a couple who were last seen at the scene of the attacks still missing. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told Sky News today that authorities are concerned the missing couple "may have been killed."

There were 88 Australians among those killed in the 2002 Bali bombings.

Two Australian victims were evacuated to Singapore for treatment via an air ambulance, according to a Singapore-based spokeswoman for International SOS, which provides services such as medical and emergency evacuations.

`Credible Presence'

"The aim of this attack is to demonstrate Jemaah Islamiyah is still active and has a credible presence in Indonesia," said Rohan Gunaratna, head of terrorism research at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies in Singapore.

Abu Bakar Bashir, the suspected leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, was convicted of conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail. The most serious charges against him were dropped.

A spokesman for Bashir said he had no connection with the Oct. 1 attacks, the Associated Press reported.

Yudhoyono, 56, a former general, was elected in September 2004 on promises to combat terrorism and crack down on corruption in the world's fourth-most-populous nation. Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population.

Yudhoyono warned a month ago of increased potential for terrorism. On Aug. 29, he said he ordered agencies to boost security for at least the next two months.

The bombings came two days before Yudhoyono was scheduled to meet Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Bali. The meeting will be held as scheduled, Lee's office said in a statement today.

Other Attacks

A car bomb outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in September last year killed at least nine people and injured 182. A car bomb in front of the JW Marriot hotel in Jakarta in August 2003 left 12 people dead.

On Aug. 30, a day after Yudhoyono ordered heightened security, Australia warned citizens against traveling to Bali and other provinces, saying the potential for terrorist attacks remained high.

"We continue to receive a stream of credible reporting suggesting that terrorists are in the advanced stages of planning attacks against Western interests in Indonesia," Australia's Foreign Affairs Department said on its Web site Aug. 30. "Attacks could occur at any time, anywhere in Indonesia and could be directed at any locations known to be frequented by foreigners."

The U.S. State Department posted a similar warning.

To contact the reporter on this story
Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja in Bali at wahyudi@bloomberg.net;
Arijit Ghosh in Jakarta at aghosh@bloomberg.net


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