Indonesia’s president hopes high-profile arrest cripples new cell accused of plotting attacks

By Ali Kotarumalos, AP
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Indonesia’s president hopes arrest cripples cell

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s president said he hoped the arrest of the country’s most-wanted terrorist would help cripple a cell accused of plotting a Mumbai-style attack targeting foreigners at luxury hotels and several high-profile assassinations.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, reportedly a target of the plot, urged people to remain vigilant, however, and to report all suspicious movements.

Abdullah Sunata was led away in handcuffs with two aides, one of them an alleged expert bombmaker, after raids on their hideouts in Central Java province Wednesday. He was wanted, among other things, for setting up a jihadi training camp in westernmost Aceh province and for recruiting new members.

“We have successfully arrested Sunata and two other suspects,” national police spokesman Maj. Gen. Edward Aritonang told The Associated Press after their rented home in Cungkrungan, a village in Central Java province, had been surrounded and searched. Police found a bomb in a backpack and several revolvers.

An earlier raid on a house in nearby Girimulya village also yielded explosives and weapons.

Police could not immediately confirm a report on Metro TV that said documents discovered during one of the searches indicated the men were planning an attack on the Danish embassy in Jakarta — possibly over anger about the 2005 publication of caricatures depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.

One man, identified as Yuli Harsono, was killed in a shootout with police.

Neighbors, angry to learn that a suspected terrorist had been living in their midst, warned Thursday that hundreds of people were ready to block any efforts to bury him in the local cemetery.

They said Harsono was a former soldier who spent two years in jail for stealing gunpowder from the military’s arsenal. After his return in 2005, he shut out neighbors and spent all his free time with outsiders, often discussing the Quran at his house, said one resident, Bayu Prastowo.

“We don’t want our village to be remembered as a terror nest,” said Pujianto, the village chief, who goes by one name. “We’ll ask his family to bury him somewhere else. If they refuse, we’re ready to block the burial.”

The country of 240 million has battled Islamist militants with links to the Southeast Asian network, Jemaah Islamiyah, since 2002, when extremists bombed a nightclub district on Bali island, killing 202 people, most of them foreign tourists. There have been three other major suicide bombings since then, the most recent targeting two luxury hotels in Jakarta a year ago killing seven and injuring more than 50.

Though hundreds of suspected militants have been captured in a security crackdown in recent years, terrorists have proved resilient, with networks splintering and mutating.

Sunata’s new cell, uncovered in February, was comprised of militants from several groups with ties to the Middle East and the Philippines. Authorities found a cache of M-16 assault rifles, revolvers and thousands of rounds of ammunition at their Aceh training camp. They also said they uncovered plans to launch Mumbai-style terror strikes and to kill Yudhoyono and other high-profile targets.

“The president hopes, with the arrest of Abdullah Sunata and others, all international links to Indonesian terrorist groups will be cut,” said Yudhoyono’s spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha, calling on people to alert authorities to all suspicious activities.

Ken Conboy, a Jakarta-based expert on Southeast Asian terrorist groups, said Sunata’s arrest was significant, especially because several other top suspects have been killed in police raids, prompting experts to say valuable intelligence had been lost. Nordin M. Top, a bombmaking expert who was behind almost all major suicide bombings, and Dulmatin, also tied to the Aceh cell, were both killed by police in the last year.

With their deaths, Sunata became the country’s most sought-after terrorist.

“He’d be able to connect a lot of the dots about the Aceh operations,” from funding and training to potential targets, he said. “What were these guys going to be used for?”

Sunata was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2006 for hiding Top, an expert bomb-maker who once headed Jemaah Islamiyah. He was released in April 2009 for good behavior, but returned to the terrorist network.

will not be displayed