Indonesia arrests 36 militant suspects ahead of inauguration

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s elite anti-terrorism unit went on a busy 24-hour spree to root out suspected 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 counterterrorism squad, known as Densus 88, in eight provinces, including on the tourist island of Bali, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said yesterday. The sweep followed a tipoff 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 from his wounds.

President Joko Widodo, who will take the oath of the office on Sunday at a ceremony in 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 the Islamic State (IS) group.

Indonesian National Police spokesperson Brigadier General Dedi Prasetyo and an aide show photos of evidence of confiscated items during raids following a knife attack against Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Wiranto during a press conference in Jakarta. PHOTO: AP

The inauguration of Widodo, who won a second term with 55.5 per cent 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 United States (US) 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 the group affiliated to IS.

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, books, laptops and mobile phones 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 fertiliser and rosary pea seeds, which are the main ingredient of abrin, an extremely toxic poison, Prasetyo said.

Indonesia 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 targetting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces and local “infidels”.