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Indonesia Says Plot Against Police Uncovered; 15 Suspects Held

September 18, 2003|Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Police announced Wednesday that they had arrested 15 terrorism suspects during the last month for allegedly planning to bomb the national police headquarters and the main Jakarta police station.

Some of the suspects also were accused of harboring fugitives wanted in the bombing of two Bali nightclubs last year and the JW Marriott Hotel here in the capital last month. The suicide attacks killed more than 200 people.

"Those who were arrested are suspected perpetrators who planned to carry out more terror acts," said Erwin Mappaseng, national police chief of detectives. "They have violated the law on terrorism."

Police said some of the suspects participated in seven meetings to plan the attacks and conducted surveillance on the two police stations. A map showing the targets was seized in one of the raids.

Authorities have warned for weeks that the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist network, which is accused of being responsible for the nightclub and hotel bombings, planned further attacks in Jakarta. The group is believed to have brought explosives to the capital earlier this year.

Jemaah Islamiah, which seeks to form an Islamic state in Southeast Asia, is closely allied with the Al Qaeda terrorist network, and many of its leaders received military training at camps in Afghanistan. More than 200 suspected members have been arrested, but authorities believe many hundreds more are at large.

Some Muslim leaders in Indonesia have complained that police are stigmatizing all members of their religion by citing the name Jemaah Islamiah, which means Islamic community.

On Wednesday, officials stopped short of naming Jemaah Islamiah in the alleged police-bombing plot, but they indicated that several of those arrested had links to suspects in previous attacks by the group.

In addition, police said a suspect who used the names Samiyan, Said and Abdullah was the leader of Wakalah Jakarta, a local unit of the network.

"They are criminals and we arrested them and processed their cases," Mappaseng said. "We do not look at what their organization is. We look at what they did."

The suspects were arrested between Aug. 14 and Sept. 14 in Jakarta, Central Java and South Sumatra provinces. Police said one of those arrested was a Malaysian named Samsul Bahri, alias Farhan, who allegedly is an expert in making bombs.

"It's further evidence that the police aren't letting up," said Sidney Jones, Jakarta analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, who has closely studied Jemaah Islamiah. "They are continuing to get new information with every arrest that leads to new people and new parts of the network."

Among those arrested is Muhaimin Yahya, alias Siat, the imam of a Jakarta mosque. Police say he harbored suspects wanted in the Bali and Marriott bombings. Jones alleged that Yahya is a member of the central command of Jemaah Islamiah, a top governing body.

Also arrested was Iksan Miarso Warno Wibatso, who was accused of hiding a Bali bombing suspect. Jones said Iksan is a publisher in Central Java who has printed in Indonesian all the books of the late Abdullah Azzam, the main ideologue of Al Qaeda and a close friend of its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Police said Bambang Tetuko, a university lecturer, was arrested in the Javanese city of Semarang and charged with providing a house where the conspirators met to discuss the bombing plan.

Police gave no indication of when the bombings were to take place or how they would have been carried out.

In recent days, Islamic leaders and the wives of seven of the suspects have protested the arrests, charging that police acted improperly by detaining some of the men without warrants and not notifying the suspects' families.

Police denied the charge but subsequently made the suspects' names public.

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