A major attack thwarted. “9 terror suspects arrested in Indonesia,” by Zakki Hakim for the Associated Press, July 2:
JAKARTA, Indonesia “” A Singaporean who met several times with Osama bin Laden was among nine terror suspects arrested Wednesday in western Indonesia, a local television station reported.
A cache of powerful bombs packed with bullets was also seized in the raid.
The men initially planned to attack Western tourists on Sumatra Island, but changed their minds after realizing too many Indonesian lives could be lost, TVOne quoted anti-terror police as saying. They reportedly were considering a bombing in the capital, Jakarta, instead.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has been hit in recent years by a string of suicide bombings that have killed more than 240 people. The regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed in those attacks.
The last bombing occurred on Bali in late 2005 and earlier this year the United States lifted a travel warning imposed in 2000, citing improvements in security.
A police general, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, told The Associated Press 22 bombs were seized Wednesday in Palembang, a coastal city on Sumatra, the largest weighing 11 pounds.
Some were packed with bullets, rather than Jemaah Islamiyah’s hallmark ball-bearings, probably to maximize the impact of the blast.
Only the nationality of one suspect – the Singaporean – was identified by TVOne. The station said the man allegedly met with bin Laden on several occasions and received training in Afghanistan, but provided no further details.
The other men allegedly had ties with Southeast Asia’s most wanted terror suspect, Noordin Top, who is believed to head a breakaway faction of Jemaah Islamiyah that is committed to al-Qaida style attacks on Western, civilian targets.
Police documents obtained recently by The Associated Press indicate Jemaah Islamiyah has maintained the ability and desire to forge international links despite a crackdown that has resulted in the arrest and convictions of hundreds of terrorists.
The newly detained suspects will be transferred to Jakarta on Thursday.
Police spokesman Abubakar Nataprawira confirmed the arrests and the recovery of explosives, but would not elaborate, saying the investigation was ongoing.
But another police official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that nine were being held and that eight bombs were seized.