Thieves who robbed a jewellery store in West Jakarta earlier this month were planning to use the loot to fund terrorism, top security officials said here, after raids in which four suspects were arrested and three killed.
"Apparently, the suspects are linked to fundraising activities to support the spread of their ideology," chief of the Jakarta Police Mobil Unit Herry Heryawan said on March 15th.
Ansyaad Mbai, head of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), said the men are followers of Abu Umar, the notorious weapons smuggler and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) member who is currently in prison.
"They are linked to Abu Umar," he told reporters in Jakarta on March 16th. "They robbed gold to finance terrorist activities."
They were influenced by radical books written in prison cells, he said. "The leaders of these terrorist groups, despite being in prison, are still writing books to spread the spirit of terrorism," he added.
Suspects amassed weapons, explosives and cash
Authorities tracked down the suspects after they robbed the Terus Jaya Gold Shop in Tambora, West Jakarta on March 10th. Raids on March 14th and 15th netted seven suspects, 14 homemade bombs, five firearms, Rp. 500 million ($51,466) in cash and more than a kilogramme of stolen gold.
On March 14th, the anti-terror police unit Detachment 88 (Densus 88) moved to apprehend two men in connection with the case: Makmur aka Bram, and Hendra Hermawan. Makmur was killed in the operation, which took place in North Jakarta.
The next day, the counterterrorism squad carried out a raid in Mustika Jaya, a village in Bekasi, West Java. Two suspects -- Arman and Kodrat, aka Polo – were shot dead. Three others were captured alive: Siswanto, Togog alias Hanto, and Kiting.
Several of the men tracked down in the raid were reportedly involved in prior violent incidents, including a premature bomb detonation at a house in Beji, Depok in September 2011, and the August 2010 robbery of the CIMB Niaga bank in Medan, North Sumatra. A bank security guard was murdered during the robbery.
Raids put counterterror effort in spotlight
The fatal shooting of suspects during the raids has added fuel to an ongoing controversy over what some say is excessive use of force by Detachment 88. Police say the shooting was necessary because the suspects had guns and resisted arrest.
"They were holding firearms, which if left unchecked could endanger officers. So actions had to be taken," Sutarman, head of the National Police Criminal Detective Agency, was quoted as saying in Kompas.
In recent weeks, Detachment 88 has faced calls from some Islamic organisations to disband following allegations of human rights violations.
The allegations emerged after video footage emerged that shows squad members apparently torturing and trampling suspects and using a shoot-to-kill policy, during a raid most likely to have taken place in Poso, Central Sulawesi.
Several prominent Muslim figures, led by Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Indonesia's second largest Muslim organisation, Muhammadiyah, met with National Police Chief General Timur Pradopo in late February to discuss the claims.
The Muslim leaders asked Timur to investigate the allegations and conduct an evaluation of the squad's counterterrorism measures, according to Amidhan, chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), who was also present at the meeting. The deaths during Friday's raid, he told Khabar Southeast Asia, had further amplified concerns.
He said police should consider deeper involvement of Muslim scholars in the squad because terrorism is also a serious issue for Islam, and because Muslims are involved in the counterterrorism effort.
"We are against terrorism just as much, and we even have issued a fatwa declaring such activities as haram," he told Khabar.
Analyst: terrorists are mankind's common enemy
Terrorism analyst La Ode Arham agrees about being inclusive – but does not support disbanding Detachment 88.
In his view, Indonesia needs all parties working together to combat terrorism. He said it is necessary to bring Muslim scholars, former jihadists, and law enforcers into dialogue.
"They can be the mediators to foster dialogues for deradicalisation efforts," he told Khabar.
"It doesn't make sense to disband Detachment 88. It would be wiser to improve them with new perspectives by involving various stakeholders. After all, terrorism is mankind's common enemy, and we have to join forces to counter it," he said.
Eriyanto, a 50 year-old Bekasi resident, told Khabar he feels safer due to the efforts of Detachment 88 and other police units in combating terrorism.
"We are aware that there are some criticisms about their work in Poso, but with some discipline, I am sure it will be better. We, the residents of Bekasi, are feeling safer with these arrests. This is also an important warning for those thinking of possible future terrorist attacks: their place is not here," he told Khabar, "thanks to Detachment 88".