Indonesian police arrest two more men


Police now have four suspects in custody and hope to make some headway, even as charges fly that ex-generals are involved in blasts.

Indonesian police have arrested two more men linked with the Christmas Eve bombings as top security officials charged that former army generals backing the New Order regime might have had a hand in the attacks.

Police spokesman Salleh Saaf said the two, who were caught in a private house in the West Java town of Sukabumi, were suspected of having planted bombs in churches in the area.

He said that they would join two others arrested by police in Bandung after 18 bombs exploded near churches, killing 17 people and injuring 100 in eight cities.

“We hope all four will shed some light on our investigation,” he told The Straits Times. “They are under intensive questioning. We have not reached any conclusions yet.”

The latest two men to be picked up worked for a private foundation for drug rehabilitation.

A search of their work place found nothing incriminating. But their residence yielded many clues.

Police disclosed that they had found several gift parcels, similar to the ones that had contained bombs, including one addressed to the wife of the local district police chief, two handguns and several knives.

National police chief Suroyo Bhimantoro said that just one group had carried out the bombings.

His conclusion was based on similarities in the way the bombs were assembled, the materials used, the packaging and the almost synchronised explosions.

The group was also operating on a network system where field operators did not know each other.

Noted Gen Bhimantoro: “The bombings must have been conducted by one group, aimed at intimidating the public and weakening the government.”

Defence Minister Muhammad Mahfud on Tuesday accused generals of being behind the bombings. He maintained that they were “controlled by a very powerful man”.

Speculation is rife that the still powerful armed forces (TNI) could have engineered the violence as a warning to the government to back off on its plan to try military officers over the debacle in East Timor.

But senior military officers lashed out at suggestions that the TNI was behind any move to destabilise the civilian government.

Said the Chief of Territorial Affairs, Lt-General Agus Widjoyo: “There is clearly an attempt to scapegoat the military for any violence in Indonesia. There is no shred of evidence to prove that the TNI is behind the problems.”

Most military officers echo Lt-Gen Agus’ sentiments though some continue to believe that retired generals were working with some active officers to bring down the President.

“There is a significant number of generals out there who are upset with Gus Dur, angry because they have been sidelined by this current government,” said an army intelligence source, a one-star general.

“The civilians might have the technology, but they will need the help of soldiers to make it work.”

But the source maintained that they would probably work with other elements outside the military who shared their views.

Said a Cabinet Minister who declined to be named: “It is not a simple case of some generals conspiring against the President. There are different elements involved, but they all come together because of their hatred for Gus Dur.”

One name that has surfaced in the Indonesian media as a possible mastermind behind the bombings is the fugitive son of former president Suharto.

Mr Hutomo Mandala Putra was also blamed for the attack on the Jakarta Stock Exchange Building last September.

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