The Irrawaddy

Police ID Suspects in Jakarta Buddhist Temple Bombing

Muslim activists protest outside the Burma Embassy in Jakarta in this Aug. 9, 2012 file photo. (Photo: Reuters / Supri)

Politicians have called for calm and police say they have identified suspects after a low-intensity bomb exploded outside a Buddhist temple in West Jakarta on Sunday night, injuring three people.

In what appears to be the first terrorist attack in Jakarta in four years, a letter titled “We heard Rohingya’s screams” was found inside one of the two bomb packages, suggesting it was intended as a response to violence against the Muslim Rohingya people in Buddhist-majority Burma.

Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto said police had identified all the perpetrators in the attack, saying that they could be connected to other bombings in Depok, south of Jakarta, and Bangka-Belitung province last year.

“We have examined the CCTV and are now trying to match which group the perpetrators belong to. However, we can confirm that they are linked with previous bombings,” he said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo to arrest the group responsible for the attack on the Ekayana Buddhist Center.

“The president has ordered the justice and security minister and the chief of police to calm the public and explain what happened to avoid misinformation and misunderstanding that could worsen the situation,” presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said on Monday.

Coordinating Minister for Political, Justice and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto urged the police to act swiftly.

“Find and arrest whoever was responsible for the explosion at the Ekayana temple soon,” Djoko said. “The government has condemned the act, which has ruined the peaceful spirit of the holy month of Ramadan.”

Calling the attack an attempt to provoke tensions between Muslims and Buddhists, Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said the letter referring to the Rohingya did not mean the terror group was defending the Muslim minority in Burma.

“Obviously this is not an act of solidarity; this is an act we should all condemn,” Suryadharma said. “Clearly Muslims and Buddhists have been living in harmony since long ago. Last night’s terrorist act was disorganized, the objective was unclear.”

There has been growing anger in Indonesia at the plight of the Rohingya minority in Burma. In May police foiled a plot by Islamic hard-liners to bomb the Burma Embassy in Jakarta, while reports of violence in Burma routinely trigger protests in the capital.

But police said they had yet to connect the latest incident to the situation in Burma.

The temple, one of the biggest in Jakarta, issued a statement expressing the hope that the attack would “not cause any unrest among religious communities.”

National Police chief detective Comr. Gen. Sutarman said the attack showed that terrorist organizations would continue to target locations in the capital.

“This is concrete proof that terrorists are still active and that they will keep spreading terror at different targets,” Sutarman said.

In the attack, two bombs were placed in a green plastic bag and left near the front door of the Ekayana Buddhist Center in Duri Kepa on Sunday, according to an anonymous source in National Police anti-terrorism unit Densus 88.

The bombs were triggered by a cell phone while some 300 people were gathered inside the temple for a sermon. A third bomb failed to detonate, the source said. “There was another bomb [found smoking] … in a plastic bucket.”

One woman suffered minor injuries to her arms, while two others were treated for damaged eardrums.

Neither police nor the temple said who they suspect were behind the blasts. The source in Densus 88 told the Jakarta Globe that the attack was likely revenge for anti-Muslim violence in Burma.

“We suspect this is related to the Rohingya Muslims who are oppressed in Buddhist-majority Myanmar,” the source said.

Security cameras at the temple captured footage of an unidentified man dropping off two packages moments before the explosions, said Bhikku Arya Maitri Mahatera, a senior monk at the temple.

The unidentified suspect entered the temple during a crowded sermon on Sunday night, placing one bomb near a shoe rack and another behind a statue of the Maitreya Buddha before leaving, the monk said after looking at closed-circuit security camera footage.

“The young man entered the temple, acting like any other member of the congregation,” Arya said.

Moments later the bombs exploded near the center’s doors.

“People were praying when the blast occurred and they remained calm because they thought it was only a firecracker,” Arya said.

The police questioned witnesses on Monday morning, while investigators were searching for those involved in the bombing, National Police chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said.

“So far we have questioned eight witnesses,” Timur explained. “They were at the scene when the bomb went off.”

A surge in anti-Muslim violence in Burma has inflamed tempers in Indonesia, where Islamic organizations hold protests criticizing the recently reformed country for the series of violent attacks on Rohingya Muslims.

— Additional reporting from AFP