JAKARTA — Indonesia’s elite anti-terror squad seized five homemade bombs and arrested two suspected militants who allegedly planned to attack the Burma Embassy to protest that country’s treatment of Muslims, police said Friday.
The two men were arrested in Central Jakarta on a motorbike just before midnight Thursday after authorities were tipped to their whereabouts, said National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar. The bombs and cables were found inside a backpack they had.
Their interrogation led to a rented house where other explosive materials were found. A woman and her baby were also taken by police from the house.
Amar initially identified the men as Zainal Abidin, 38, and Julisman, 28, but later clarified that those were aliases used to rent the house two months earlier. Their real names are Ahmad Taufik, 22, and Sefa Riano, 29, he said. They were part of a cell allegedly involved in recent attacks against Indonesian police.
“They have a link with terrorism from evidence we have seized,” Amar said, refusing to say when the embassy attack was supposed to take place. “We are still investigating and searching for other alleged group members.”
Dozens of police have been deployed to secure the Burma Embassy in Jakarta and its ambassador’s house. Truckloads of officers were also placed at nearby buildings and hotels.
Amar said the suspects told authorities they wanted to retaliate against Burma for recent attacks on Rohingya Muslims there.
Sectarian violence in the Buddhist-majority country has killed scores, and thousands of Muslims have been driven from their homes. The Rohingya ethnic group faces severe discrimination and Rohingya are considered illegal immigrants despite many living in Burma for generations.
Indonesians have rallied in defense of Rohingya Muslims, and last year jailed radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir sent a letter to Burma’s president threatening to attack the country over their persecution.
Bashir is the spiritual leader of al-Qaida-linked militants blamed for a string of deadly attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, on the resort island.
A month after Bashir’s threat, a would-be suicide bomber surrendered to police after a change of heart, saying he had contemplated targeting Buddhists to strike out over the Rohingya issue.
Terrorist attacks aimed at foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces.