Jakarta – The use of three human bombs in the Oct 1 Bali terror attacks serves as a grim reminder that the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) has succeeded in recruiting and preparing more young Muslims for such suicidal missions. Indonesian police on Oct 4 released the pictures of the severed heads of three men believed to be the Balisuicide bombers.
All three - who were between 20 and 25 years and looked Indonesians - were believed to have been fitted with explosive belts that blew apart their torso but left their heads and limbs intact.
The failure to identify the three suspected suicide bombers, however, continues to hinder the police investigation. "We are still in the dark about the (identities) of the suspected suicide bombers. We are waiting for a response from people in Bali and other parts of the country who may recognise the three men," Bali Police chief Inspector-Generl Made Mangku Pastika said on Oct 5.
Indonesian investigators have so far questioned more than 70 people as witnesses in connection with the powerful explosions in two cafes in Jimbaran and a restaurant in Kuta, which left at least 22 people dead and over 100 others injured.
Some analysts believe the three Bali bombers were from a new super-secret special forces outfit preparing young people for terrorism and "martyrdom operations".
Jakarta-based terrorism expert Sidney Jones said the unit is modelled along the lines of a special combat unit the JI had wanted to set up for each of its divisions back in 2002. But it was hampered by a crackdown that followed the first Bali bombings in 2002.
Investigations showed that the Oct 1 suicide bombers were clearly prepared to die. Wearing waist bombs packed with nails, bolts, ball bearings and other shrapnel, the trio walked into the two cafes and restaurant to maim, kill and achieve maximum psychological impact.
Singapore-based terror expert Rohan Gunaratna said the ferocity of the body bombs in the Bali attacks had not been used before in this region. The nails, the battery and ball bearings used in the Oct 1 attacks also hint at intensive preparation – a hallmark of previous JI bombings.
Dr Gunaratna believes that at least a dozen more bombers have been prepared by the JI in Indonesia and the Philippines. Training in suicide terrorism began at one of their camps in the Philippines this year.
However, Dr Jones believes that while some training has gone on in the Philippines, "a lot of it is just home-grown".
"The people who actually give themselves up, or become martyrs in their view, are usually more expendable, often they’re poorer. Sometimes, they've been made to feel as though what they are doing is extraordinary, that they have been specifically chosen, and this is reinforced to the point that it becomes a positive act of religious faith to go and detonate that bomb," Dr Jones added.
Dr Gunaratna expects suicide terrorism to spread in the region. "As targets harden, JI will look to export the new recruits, and other groups too will learn."
* Police expand bomb probe outside Bali, no suspects named (The Jakarta Post, Oct 6)
* The making of human bombs (The Straits Times, Oct 5)