The recent bomb attacks in Tentena in Central Sulawesi may have been the work of a suicide bomber as one victim identified as Iskandar was not known to locals, according to police, Christian and Muslim leaders.
The possibility was voiced during an interfaith dialog on Sunday evening led by priest Renaldy Damanik from the Central Sulawesi Christian Church Communion (GKST) and a Muslim cleric, Adnan Arsal.
The two said Iskandar, one of the 20 people killed in Saturday’s incident, was a stranger among local Christian and Muslim communities.
On Monday, Renaldy said the Muslim and Christian communities had agreed not to blame each other for the bombing, and had pledged to help the police find the suspects.
Central Sulawesi Police chief of detectives Sr. Comr. Tatang Somantri confirmed Iskandar’s identity, saying that his office was focusing their investigations on his movements before the blast.
The man’s identity was revealed after police found an unofficial card with his name on it in his pocket, Tatang said.
Suicide bombings are the modus operandi of attacks carried out by the regional Jamaah Islamiyah terror group, which two fugitives, Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Muhd. Top, allegedly belong to.
Police hold Jamaah Islamiyah responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings, the 2003 attack on Jakarta’s JW Marriot Hotel and the 2004 Australian Embassy blast, all of which involved suicide bombers.
In Jakarta, Vice President Jusuf Kalla said on Monday there were strong indications that Azahari and Noordin were behind the attack on the crowded Tentena market, some 60 kilometers north of Poso.
The two fugitives were probably assisted by new recruits in Central Sulawesi, Kalla said.
“The suspects in the bombing are the ‘old guys’, with Azahari and Noordin likely to be involved. The incident is connected with previous attacks,” he said.
Kalla said the likely motive behind the bombings was to reignite new religious fighting in the troubled area where hundreds of people have died in outbreaks of sectarian violence during the past five years.
“I am really concerned with the police’s inability to capture these two fugitives. However, to replace National Police chief (Gen. Da’i Bachtiar), we will need some time. We will see this development later,” he said.
Da’i earlier said capturing Azahari and Noordin would be a top priority for police during the first 100 days of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s presidency.
Separately, House of Representatives Speaker Agung Laksono said on Monday the Tentena attack showed it was time to replace Da’i and Indonesian Military chief Gen. Endriartono Sutarto. There were plenty of good candidates waiting in the wings, Agung said.
The bombing was solid proof the government had failed to provide Indonesians with the standard of security it had constantly promised during the election campaign, he said.
“The facts show this. There’s still no security for the public.”
Central Sulawesi Regional Representatives Council (DPD) member Ichsan Loulembah said the bombing was a slap in the face for the government.
“The bombing took place when the President was abroad visiting other nations and promoting Indonesia as a safe country for major investment,” he said.
A special House team, which was set up in December to investigate previous bombings in Poso, is scheduled to deliver its findings and recommendations about the string of terror attacks in the area during a House plenary session on Tuesday.
The team is expected to suggest the government issue a special decree on the coordination of the police and the military as the operational separation of the two forces remains one of the major hurdles to resolving the Poso conflict.
In Palu, Central Sulawesi Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Rais D. Adam said on Monday his office has questioned 12 witnesses to the recent attack.
“The National Police headquarters has sent several units to support the investigation. But there is not yet any plan to deploy a large number of personnel (there),” he said.
Tentena, which was spared from the earlier communal violence that hit Poso, now has the second-highest death toll for a bomb attack in Indonesia after Bali, where two bombs killed 202 people.