President orders thorough probe of Indonesia suicide attacks

AP News
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Posted: May 25, 2017 5:40 AM
President orders thorough probe of Indonesia suicide attacks

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's president ordered a thorough investigation Thursday of twin suicide bombings that targeted police, killing three officers, in the deadliest attack by suspected militants in the capital in a year.

The bombings on Wednesday night also injured six other police officers and five civilians.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said he ordered police to "thoroughly investigate the networks of the perpetrators and hunt them to the roots." He spoke from his hometown of Solo in Central Java province.

Muslim-majority Indonesia has carried out a sustained crackdown on militants since the 2002 Bali bombings by al-Qaida-affiliated radicals that killed 202 people. A new threat has emerged in the past several years from Islamic State group sympathizers.

Vice National Police Chief Syafruddin, who uses one name, said an initial investigation into Wednesday's blast showed there were two explosions by two suicide bombers near a bus terminal, where police were providing security for a parade.

Police said an anti-terror squad immediately raided two houses believed to be owned by the perpetrators in neighboring provinces of Banten and West Java.

Police have identified the bombers as Ichwanul Nurul Salam, 40, and Ahmad Sukri, 32, both from West Java province, said Col. Arif Makhfudiharto, chief of the West Java anti-terror squad.

"Police have taken their relatives for questioning and DNA tests," Makhfudiharto told The Associated Press.

National police spokesman Setyo Wasisto said one the two explosions occurred at a bus shelter while another struck near a parking lot about 10 meters (yards) away. He said initial investigations indicated the bombs were made out of pressure cookers and were carried in backpacks.

He added that nails, buckshot and aluminum flakes found at the scene indicated that the bombs were similar to a pressure cooker bomb that exploded in Bandung in February.

The attack was the deadliest in Jakarta since a suicide and gun strike in January 2016 that left four civilians and four assailants dead. Authorities have disrupted a number of other planned attacks since.

In February, police fatally shot a suspected militant in the West Java capital of Bandung after his bomb exploded in a vacant lot and he fled into a municipal building and set it alight. Police identified him as a member of Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, a network of almost two dozen Indonesian extremist groups that formed in 2015 and pledges allegiance to Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

JAD has been linked to numerous plots in Indonesia, including the 2016 Jakarta attack.

In March, police shot dead a suspected JAD member and wounded another as they tried to escape a raid. At least six other militants were arrested, including some accused of trying to establish a jihadist training camp in eastern Indonesia and suspected of having links with Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines.

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Last month, police said they arrested three suspected militants who were accused of planning to attack a police station in East Java.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told his Parliament on Thursday that he had phoned Jokowi to "offer our condolences and our resolute support to Indonesia as we condemn the murderous terrorist attack on civilians and police in Jakarta last night."

"While we mourn, we must learn from these events as we do and sharpen our resolve to defeat the terrorists abroad and at home," said Turnbull, referring also to the suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena in Britain that killed 22 this week.

Australia's opposition leader Bill Shorten condemned the Jakarta attacks as "absolutely despicable." He told Parliament the suicide bombings only days before the holy month of Ramadan showed that "terrorists have no respect for faith or creed or the background of any of their victims."

Australia and Indonesia plan to jointly host an Asia-Pacific summit in August aimed at coordinating against the security threat posed by homegrown Islamic militants returning from battlefields in Syria and Iraq.

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Associated Press writer Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.