Indonesia arrests 36 militant suspects ahead of president’s inauguration

Dedi Prasetyo, right, national police spokesman in Indonesia, helps display photos of confiscated items during a news conference Oct. 17 in Jakarta.
(Associated Press)

Indonesia’s elite anti-terrorism unit went on a busy 24-hour spree to root out suspected Islamic militants ahead of a presidential inauguration that will be attended by regional leaders and foreign envoys.

At least 36 suspects have been detained by the counter-terrorism squad, known as Densus 88, in eight provinces, including on the tourist island of Bali, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said Thursday. The sweep followed a tip about possible attacks against police and worship places in several areas.

Last week, a militant couple were arrested over the stabbing of Indonesia’s top security minister, Wiranto, who is recovering.


President Joko Widodo, who will take the oath of office on Sunday at a ceremony in the capital, Jakarta, ordered government forces to hunt down the militant networks responsible for the attack.

Wiranto, a local police chief and a third man were wounded in the broad daylight attack in Banten province last Thursday by suspected militant Syahril Alamsyah and his wife, Fitria Andriana. Both are believed to be members of a local affiliate of Islamic State known as the Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, or JAD.

The inauguration of Widodo, who won a second term with 55.5% of the vote in the April 17 election, will be attended by Southeast Asian leaders and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Several envoys, including China’s Vice President Wang Qishan and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, are also scheduled to attend.

Prasetyo said 31,000 security personnel were being deployed to secure the capital during Widodo’s inauguration at a parliamentary ceremony, though there has been no warning of a possible attack.

“The arrested suspects planned to attack police and worship places instead,” Prasetyo said.


He said police were hunting down other suspected militants, mostly participants in a social media chat group who are believed to be linked to JAD.

Police have seized 10 homemade pipe bombs believed to be intended for suicide attacks, chemicals for use in explosives, airsoft guns, knives, documents on planned attacks, jihadi books, laptops and cellphones in separate raids.

In West Java’s Cirebon district, investigators found that three of the suspects had been working on a chemical bomb containing methanol, urea fertilizer and rosary pea seeds, which are the main ingredient of abrin, an extremely toxic poison, Prasetyo said.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has been battling militants since bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

Attacks aimed at foreigners have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces and local “infidels.”

In May last year, two families carried out suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia’s second-largest city, Surabaya, killing a dozen people and two young girls whose parents had involved them in one of the attacks. Police said the father of the two girls was the leader of a cell in a larger militant network that claimed allegiance to Islamic State.