Indonesia is on guard against another terror attack, the national police chief said on Thursday, as Australia renewed warnings of a possible attack tied to Indonesia’s national day on Sunday.
‘What’s clear is we have already anticipated that but we aren’t talking about a specific date or place,’ General Da’i Bachtiar said, in response to an unusually specific warning from Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer. ‘We are continuing to anticipate where and when an attack will be carried out, to guard against it,’ said Gen Bachtiar, who himself warned on Wednesday that there might be another attack following the deadly Aug 5 Jakarta hotel bombing.
Mr Downer said there could be a strike against Westerners in Jakarta tied to the Aug 17 celebrations.
‘I last week made it clear that we were concerned there could be attacks during the period 10th to the 17th of August, we’ve gone past the 10th, the 17th is Indonesia’s national day so it’s a day where this sort of thing could happen,’ Mr Downer said.
Australia this week issued its strongest travel warning yet about Indonesia, urging its citizens to avoid all unnecessary trips and to avoid international hotels in Jakarta.
Eleven Indonesians and a Dutch banker died when a car bomb exploded outside the American-run JW Marriott hotel. Among the dead was Asmar Latinsani, who police described as a Sumatran member of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror network.
His body was torn apart by the blast but police say they do not know if he was a suicide bomber. They say there are similarities between the Marriott blast, last October’s Bali bombings, and a 2000 bombing outside the home of the Philippines ambassador.
A suicide bomber was involved in the Bali blast which killed 202 people and which police have linked to JI. Authorities say JI has ties to Al-Qaeda.
Gen Bachtiar denied a report in Media Indonesia daily that nine people have been arrested in recent days for involvement in the Marriott attack. Asked about the report, he told reporters: ‘Not yet.
‘I can’t yet provide information on anything significant related to the Marriott bombing. Law enforcement steps continue but this is not yet the time to publicise something significant,’ he said.
Media Indonesia said that among those arrested is a Malaysian called Muklis. Rakyat Merdeka newspaper said one arrest was made at Bengkulu in South Sumatra.
Officer Raya, a police duty officer in Bengkulu, denied any new arrests had been made although he confirmed police there were hunting some people in connection with the attack.
Weeping relatives of those killed expressed a mixture of bewilderment and bitterness at a press conference.
‘Whoever did it are Muslim people who have no idea about the real conditions of their own people and they have no humanity at all,’ said Ms Neris, 23, whose taxi driver uncle Syamsuddin was killed.
‘It is the Muslim people who are now suffering because of the bombing,’ she said.
‘May he be tortured so he can feel the pain of the burning wounds my husband suffered,’ said Ms Muzainah, 42, who has four children. Her husband was a hotel security guard.
‘Hopefully the bomber will get the heaviest punishment,’ Ms Muzainah said. ‘He should not be shot because it would be too easy and less painful. He has to suffer first.’