Terror Raids in Palembang
Handcuffed and hooded, the 9 Indonesian terror suspects rounded up in Palembang arrived in Jakarta yesterday as details of the cell and its ties to Mas Slamet Kastari and Noordin M. Top are beginning to emerge.
According to multiple local press reports, the Palembang cell had planned to bomb the well-known Kafe Bedubel in the Chinese section of Bukitinggi, West Sumatra. The plan was scuttled, however, because of the fear of killing muslims and the cell had begun planning operations in Jakarta, where the likelihood of killing foreigners and non-muslims would be greater.
Members of the cell were also involved in a 2005 plot to assassinate a Christian pastor, Father Joshua, in Bandung.
The leader of the cell is believed to be a 35 year old Singaporean English teacher of Pakistani heritage named Mohammed Hassan (alias Omar, alias Fajar, alias Alim, alias Taslim, alias Abu Hazam) who was already wanted by Singaporean authorities. Hassan, Kompas reports, was a protege of JI bombmaker Dr. Azahari and had also trained with al-Qaida in Afghanistan. He is alleged to have also met with Usama bin Laden on several occasions.
Hassan is believed to have run to South Sumatra with Mas Slamet Kastari. Kastari, an Indonesian national who served as the head of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in Singapore, disappeared after a daring prison escape in February. "It's true," an Indonesian police source told the Batam Pos. "He is now here. I can assure you that we are hunting for him in every corner now."
Kastari, who had been extradited to Singapore in 2006, is now believed to be hiding in Central Java.
Hassan taught English at the Cambrichindo English Language Centre in Banyuasin, outside of Palembang, and lived with his pregnant wife and two children. His capture on June 28 followed the issuance of an arrest warrant by Singapore and after four days of interrogations led to the break that shattered the Palembang cell.
The other members of the cell, according to Detik News, are identified as:
- Musa (alias Abdul Rahman, alias Ifan), a 35 year old private sector worker who served as the head of the Anti-Apostacy Forum (FAKTA), which campaigns against religious conversion. He is suspected to be the main bombmaker and was involved in the plan to bomb Kafe Bedubel and the 2005 plot to assassinate Father Joshua in Bandung. He attempted to evade capture on his motorbike but crashed into a police motorcycle. During his capture he had a 38 mm Colt handgun with 6 bullets. "My feeling is that it's not possible," a neighbor who knew him told Kompas. "He always did the morning call to prayer at our local mosque. His voice was smooth with a bit of a Javanese accent."
- Sugi, a 22 year old student and member of FAKTA. He was trained in bombmaking and arrested at Warnet Mujahid (Mujahid Internet Cafe) in Lorong Banten, Palembang.
- Wahyudi, a 26 year old rubber worker and member of FAKTA. He lived with Heri Purwanto and is suspected of guarding the bombs.
- Heri Purwanto, a 25 year old freelancer and member of FAKTA. He lived with Wahyudi and is suspected of guarding the bombs.
- Rohman, a 35 year old private sector worker and member of FAKTA who participated in the Father Joshua plot.
- Agus Carang, a 36 year old Palembang prison employee and member of FAKTA who participated in the plans to bomb Kafe Bedubel and Father Joshua plot.
- Gandhi, a 42 year old alumni of the Afghan jihad and had fought against the Soviets between 1987 and 1992. He served as the headmaster of the Pondok Pesantren Al Furqon Baitussufah Islamic boarding school in Bumiarjo village and is suspected of harboring Hassan. He is also suspected to be the Indonesian leader of the Palembang cell.
- Agus Tiawarman, a 28 year old teacher at Pondok Pesantren Al Furqon Baitussufah. He is also suspected of harboring Hassan.
- Ali, a 30 year old teacher at Pondok Pesantren Al Furqon Baitussufah and member of FAKTA. He was captured with a bomb inside of a tupperwear container.
The investigation uncovered a cache of bombs and weapons, including 20 electronic pipe bombs, 50 38-calibre bullets, 2 cans of black powder, cables, various electronics, timers and a bombmaking manual. Some of the bombs were reportedly set to explode. A cache of chemicals were also discovered, including aluminium powder, pottasium nitrate, pottasium chlorat, nitrate and urea. Eighteen computers were also seized during the raids, which may provide significant information on the current status of JI.
"The Palembang group," police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira told Kompas, "is directly connected to JI cells in Wonosobo and Semarang, Central Java, that are controlled by Noordin M. Top. The bombmaking, however, comes from Mas Slamet Kastari's JI cell in Singapore."
According to various press reports, Hassan led authorities to Musa, who attempted to flee on his motor bike. His arrest then led to the Mujahid Internet Cafe, where Sugi was caught. They then descended on the rented house where Wahyudi and Heri Purwanto were protecting the bombs and bombmaking materials. At that point, Detachment 88 raided the Islamic boarding school in Bumiarjo village, where they captured Gandhi, Rohman, Ali and Agus Carang.