JAKARTA, Indonesia— Indonesia’s anti-terrorism forces have been busy over the past few months stopping militants plotting not against Westerners, but instead preparing to wage “holy war” against police and a government seen as barriers to creating an Islamic state.
The latest case involved alleged bomb-maker Muhammad Toriq, who surrendered late Sunday while carrying a gun and ammunition and wearing a suicide bomber belt that did not contain any explosives.
He had been on the run since last week when police flushed him out of his Jakarta house after neighbors reported seeing smoke billowing from it. He escaped again over the weekend after a blast rocked a house in the capital’s outskirts. Police believe a bomb accidentally exploded while it was being prepared for a terrorist attack, critically injuring one alleged militant inside the home.
Toriq is believed to be linked to a group that had an elaborate plan to shoot police and bomb Parliament as a way to wage jihad against the “infidels” to establish Islamic Sharia law in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
Police seized five pipe bombs, a big haul of explosive materials and several jihadist books from Toriq’s home. Investigators also found guide books on how to make bombs and to mix poisons.
Toriq told police he had planned to go on a suicide bomber mission Monday targeting either police, Indonesia’s elite anti-terrorism squad or Buddhists as a way to protest against treatment of the minority Rohingya Muslims in Burma.
He had written a suicide note but told police he decided against the mission at the last minute after he thought about the pain it would cause his mother, wife and son, said National Police spokesman Brig-Gen Boy Rafli Amar.
“To assassinate local infidels and police is the most realistic action for Islamist militants now because it more practical and inexpensive,” said Taufik Andri, an analyst from the Inscription Peace Foundation, established in 2008 to help reform militant inmates.
He said America and its allies remain an enemy, but today’s young militant generation agrees with hard-liner clerics that a secular government without Islamic Sharia law is an infidel government. Its leaders and law enforcers are the real enemies of Islam.
Since March, police have arrested nearly two dozen suspected Islamic militants and killed seven in a series of raids. All of them were plotting domestic attacks against Indonesians instead of foreigners who have been the main target here in the past, said Ansyaad Mbai, who heads the country’s anti-terror agency.
In 2002, Islamist militants with links to Al-Qaida bombed two nightclubs on Bali island killing 202 people, most of them Westerners. Most attacks since then have been smaller and local.
The change signals Indonesia’s success in suppressing its main underground terror networks, but also shows how radical groups still operating in the open remain potent breeding grounds where angry young men can become attackers.
“They are the young militants who aspired to establish a caliphate in Indonesia,” Mbai said. “They were inspired by jihadist books and literature, and sermons of Islamist radical clerics.”
Two suspects and a member of an elite anti-terrorism squad were killed Aug. 31 when police raided a militant group in Central Java’s Solo town, the hometown of convicted Islamist radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir. Two men have been arrested in that case, and two other suspects remain at large.
The men—aged between 19 and 30—are accused of killing a police officer last week and attacking two police posts in mid-August as part of a plot targeting authorities in Solo.
In a video of his police interrogation, suspect Bayu Setiono, 22, described their group as “underground” with no leader that planned to kill police and create a situation like in Ambon and Poso, for the sake of upholding Islamic Sharia law and the establishment of a caliphate in Indonesia.
Thousands of people were killed in the Muslim-Christian conflict in those two eastern Indonesian towns from 1999 into the 2000s.