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Al-Qaeda link to embassy bomb plots in Indonesia
October 30, 2012
8:03 am
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October 29, 2012

THE men arrested in Indonesia on the weekend planning to bomb the Australian & US embassy's in Jakarta and a building across the road from the Australian embassy are likely to be tied to terror group al-Qaeda in Indonesia and were unusually sophisticated in their knowledge of explosives.

International Crisis Group expert Jim Della-Giacoma told Fairfax yesterday that the 11 men arrested by Indonesian police on Friday and Saturday had been found with the explosive nitroglycerin.

He said the men were former members of Salafi group HASMI — whose leaders have since denied any link to terrorism.

An official from the Special Detachment 88 squad and a police officer stand guard outside the house of a suspected militant after a raid in Jakarta.

‘‘Salafis are generally known to be anti-terrorists and the transformation from Salafi to jihadi is rare, but it has been known to happen,’’ Mr Della-Giacoma said.

Indonesian national police said on the weekend that the terror group was well-advanced in a plot to detonate a number of bombs, including one at Plaza 89, which houses the head office of mining company Freeport McMoRan, and is across the road from the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

Other bombs were planned for the embassy of the United States, and two more at the US consulate-general in the city of Surabaya in eastern Java, and a police mobile brigade headquarters in Central Java, police said.

Troops surround the house of a suspected militant.

Police spokesman General Suhardi Alius revealed on Saturday that police had arrested suspects in Jakarta, Bogor in West Java, Solo in Central Java, and Madiun in East Java, and had discovered explosive materials, a bomb-making manual, ammunition and detonators.

Mr Della-Giacoma said that not many terrorists had the ability to handle nitroglycerin but one particularly dangerous group, al-Qaeda in Indonesia, was run by a recently arrested man, Badri Hartono, a bomb-making expert.

‘‘Badri’s group in Solo that went by the name of al-Qaeda in Indonesia did [have that expertise]and so it is likely those arrested had a relationship with Badri’s group,’’ he said.

Badri is an expert bomb technician who was trained in the sectarian conflict in Poso, Central Sulawesi. He was arrested in late September with eight others, who were in possession of guns, detonators, urea fertiliser, sulfur, liquid nitroglycerin bombs, four active pipe bombs, black powder and other explosives.

Mr Della-Giacoma said the apparent choice of the US embassy as a target showed that ‘‘the so-called far enemy’’ is still a desirable target among Indonesian jihadis.

This made them ‘‘a threat to Western interests and not just Indonesian police or the so-called ‘near enemy’, who have been preferred in recent times’’.

Indonesia has not had a major terror attack since 2009. But the large and influential groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah have fractured into smaller splinter groups.

HASMI was identified in a 2010 International Crisis Group report as a Salafi group that believed in an Islamic Caliphate to replace the state of Indonesia. It was based in Bekasi, just to the east of Jakarta.

But Saefuddin, a member of Hasmi’s executive board, told Fairfax yesterday his organisation was purely peaceful, and focused on ‘‘formal education and Islamic preaching through peaceful means’’.

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