Two bombing suspects ‘are military men’

But disclosure by Jakarta police may just be a tactic to lend credibility to its investigation for now, say analysts

Indonesian police conceded yesterday that at least two of the 25 people arrested in connection with the bombing of the Jakarta Stock Exchange were military personnel.

But analysts believe that the announcement by newly-appointed police chief, General Bimantoro, was aimed at lending credibility to an investigation that has increasingly come under fire at home and abroad for not pin-pointing the real perpetrators behind the recent spate of bombings to hit the capital.

A senior government source said that even with the disclosure of the involvement of two personnel – one from the Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad) and the other from the Special Forces (Kopassus) – there appeared to be a growing view that all those nabbed were nothing more than “scapegoats”.

“This might be a diversionary tactic to sow confusion and blur the ground even further so as to make it difficult to come to some conclusion who is guilty and who is not,” the source said.

The police announced they had detained 24 people on Sunday, a day after nabbing Iwan Setiawan, who was armed with a grenade and was on his way to cause damage to the US Embassy and a crowded shopping mall in the city centre.

With the help of the Kopassus, police said they traced all the others involved to a car-repair shop in South Jakarta, just 200 m from the private residence of President Abdurrahman Wahid.

The Krung Baro Motor workshop is reportedly owned by Tengku Ismuhadi, an Acehnese, who set up the business six months ago.

Police contend that most members of the group were from Aceh – where separatist rebels from the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) have been fighting security forces – and suggested that they could well be linked to GAM.

But sources here said it was unlikely the rebel group would have a motive for stirring trouble outside Aceh. Even if there was a link to GAM, it was still unclear which faction would have carried out the attacks.

The movement is divided into factions, one of which is reported to being sponsored by military intelligence operatives. Observers contend that the bombings could only have taken place with the involvement of army elements using civilians or Islamic radicals as proxies.

Indonesia’s leading news weekly Tempo, in a hard-hitting report, said the 25 detainees appeared to be too “amateurish” to be able to carry out the bombing.

“It seems odd that someone who took part in bombing the Stock Exchange could be so sloppy to bring a grenade in a taxi for his next target,” the article said.

“It also seems rather odd that the suspect had no inclination as to how tight security would be at the US Embassy.”

But naming two military personnel as suspects makes it appear more plausible that the group carried out the attack – and also gives police morale and credibility a much needed boost.

“It provides the new police chief and the government a bit of breathing space but it is not going to last long. People will want to know who are the real provocateurs,” the government source said.

Posted in Indonesia