A new breed of radical extremists is posing a security threat to Indonesia, officials and analysts say, citing a recent series of attacks in Solo as an example.
Two young men, Farhan Mujahidin (19) and Mukhsin Sanny Permady (20), were shot dead by counterterrorism police during an August 31st raid, after allegedly staging assaults on police posts. A third suspect, Bayu Setiono, is under arrest.
According to Brigadier General Boy Rafli Amar, spokesman for the National Police, the men appear to belong to a newly-formed extremist group – but one which is affiliated with long-standing terror networks, and with the hardline Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) organisation.
Farhan, for instance, was the stepson of convicted terrorist Abu Umar, currently in prison for smuggling firearms from the Philippines to Indonesia, and for organising a paramilitary training camp in 2008.
In 2010, police say, Farhan resided in the Philippines, where his stepfather obtained support for launching a terrorist attack, including plans to attack the Singaporean Embassy in Jakarta.
Bayu also had a connection with the Philippines, according to police. They say he was involved in smuggling firearms and had joined the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group.
Weapons seized during the August 31st raid included an Italian-made Beretta pistol stamped "PNP [Philippine National Police] property". According to Boy, the suspects underwent physical training at Mount Merbabu in Boyolali district, and may have earlier received training in combat strategy at other camps in Aceh or Mindanao.
He said they targeted Solo, also known as Surakarta, because they were familiar with the location. But the city was just the starting point for a broader campaign of terror attacks.
"As they used to study at the Al-Mukmin Ngruki Islamic boarding school, they are familiar with the location and have contacts there where they can hide. Therefore, they could remove any trace of their presence more easily," Boy said.
Andi Widjajanto, a security analyst from the University of Indonesia, told Khabar Southeast Asia on Wednesday (September 5) that terrorists have been targeting police and the Indonesian government ever since the execution of three Bali bombers in November 2008.
Amrozi, Ali Ghufron and Imam Samudra were found guilty and sentenced to death for their role in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people. Speaking by phone to Khabar, acting JAT leader Mochammad Achwan denied that the terror suspects were members of his organisation.
"I have asked JAT members whether they knew the two suspects or not, but they said that they did not know them," he said."I am very upset that officials always link terror suspects with our organisation".
JAT was founded by the firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, convicted in June 2011 and sentenced to 15 years in jail for helping to organise a jihadi training camp in Aceh. He is viewed as the chief ideologist and spiritual mentor of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), implicated in the Bali bombings.
On Friday, Indonesian counterterrorism chief Ansyaad Mbai said that JAT was linked to the Solo attacks as well as a planned assault on the Indonesian Parliament in Jakarta.
"There are several small groups (whose) underground works are not related to each other, but they all came from the JI and the JAT," he told the AFP news agency, citing information revealed by Bayu during interrogation.