Four hours after Jakarta explosion, the JI phoned ST to claim credit
Source who set up phone call also gave information for a report five days before the blast warning of a terror attack.
Two weeks ago, I received a phone call from a long-standing and well-placed informant in Indonesia. He passed me critical information that the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorist network was planning a major strike in Indonesia this month.
Probed about his source, he said that it was a mid-level JI operative, whom he refused to name. Nor would he reveal contact details.
It was an invaluable tip-off to a Page 1 report we published on July 31 in The Straits Times outlining key leadership changes in JI and plans it had for carrying out a terrorist attack in the country and region in the next few months.
The story was based on information culled from interviews with Indonesian intelligence officials, police counter-terrorism sources and security experts in the region.
Five days after the report, a car bomb blew up at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta’s commercial district.
It all seemed too much of a coincidence. I pressed my informant to link me up with this elusive JI source. He was reluctant, but relented eventually by getting the operative to call me in the office on Tuesday, some four hours after the attack on the Marriott.
The JI man refused to identify himself, but launched into an attack on President Megawati Sukarnoputri and her policies towards Muslims in Indonesia.
He said that the explosion was a ‘bloody warning’ to her administration not to crack down on JI members in the country.
‘This is a message for her and all our enemies that if they execute any of our Muslim brothers, we will continue this campaign of terror in Indonesia and the region,’ he said.
Yesterday, Indonesian police announced that they had seized documents last month showing that terrorists had planned to target the area around Jakarta’s Marriott Hotel.
Jakarta police spokesman Prasetyo told the Associated Press that the documents were seized in the central Java town of Semarang last month, when police arrested four JI members.
In the documents, there were references to some target areas including the location of the Marriott, he said.
‘There was a warning that there were some targets and we have been anticipating an attack,’ he said, adding that security forces had increased patrols in the Marriott area but this failed to prevent the attack.
The revelation confirmed our July 31 report that the threat levels in Indonesia were very high.
That report quoted an Indonesian intelligence source as saying that all indications pointed to an attempt by a leadership to carry out a Bali-style operation in Indonesia or the region in the next few months, to make the point that they are still alive and active.
Security sources also noted that the large cache of weapons, chemicals and explosives – some of which might have come from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines – seized in Semarang in Central Java recently was just the tip of the iceberg.