Jakarta – The Indonesian police launched a terror sweep last week, arresting at least 24 people linked to the Jemaah Islamiah (JI). A police spokesman said the suspects were plotting new attacks on the police headquarters and had been involved in helping two Malaysian fugitives evade capture.
National Police chief Da’i Bachtiar, who is due to retire soon, confirmed the arrests on July 1. He said the 24 suspects were arrested during raids in Central Javabut refused to identify them for fear that their accomplices would flee.
However, a police source in Central Java told The Jakarta Post that one of the 24 arrested was identified as Iqbal, who is suspected of having close ties with JI fugitive bomb-maker, Azahari Husin, a Malaysian. Azahri, and another Malaysian, Noordin Mohd Top, are suspected of being the masterminds behind a series of terrorist attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings.
"Twelve of the 24 suspects had prepared to go to the Philippines," said a senior officer at the Central Java Police.
Some observers wonder whether the arrests would make a big difference in the war against terror in Indonesia.
Mr Rashid Lubis, of the Indonesian Police Watch, said: "The police are forcing themselves to capture terror suspects because Pak Da'i will relinquish his position soon. He wants to produce a good impression of the police under his leadership."
One major problem that the police face is the lack of intelligence resources.
"Since its separation from the military five years ago, it seems like the police lack assistance, particularly from the military's intelligence agency," Mr Rashid said.
A former adviser for the police in the investigation into the Bali bombings, Mr Hermawan Sulistyo, also blamed the system for the police's inability to capture top terrorist suspects such as Azahari.
"Most officers don't want to serve in the anti-terror squad because it's not a promising position, in terms of the amount of money they could earn if they take up a police precinct chief post," Mr Hermawan said.
* Arrested militants were plotting new attacks: police (The Jakarta Post, July 4)
* Malaysian bombers haunt police efforts to polish image (The Jakarta Post, July 4)
* 24 people held for alleged JI links, Da'i says (The Jakarta Post, July 2)