Report: Malaysian, Indonesian IS supporters call for more violence after terror attack in Makassar

Armed police officers stand guard along a closed road following an explosion outside a Catholic church in Makassar, South Sulawesi province, Indonesia March 28, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. — Antara Foto/Arnas Padda via Reuters
Armed police officers stand guard along a closed road following an explosion outside a Catholic church in Makassar, South Sulawesi province, Indonesia March 28, 2021 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. — Antara Foto/Arnas Padda via Reuters

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KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 — Indonesian and Malaysian supporters of the Islamic State terrorist group called on Monday for further attacks in Indonesia following a bombing in Makassar, Indonesia, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported. 

According to the news report, the calls on social media platforms were made following an attack which involved a newlywed couple, who carried out a suicide bombing at a cathedral in South Sulawesi on Sunday, during what is considered a holy period for Christians and Muslims — a week before Easter, and in the run-up to the month of Ramadan. 

Analysts including Muh Taufiqurrohman, senior researcher at the Jakarta-based Centre for Radicalism and Deradicalisation Studies (Pakar), said through its monitoring of closed groups on social media, it found that the calls came from online groups in Indonesia and one from Malaysia. 

“They also called for more powerful bombs to be used,” he said.

The police have since arrested eight suspects with links to the couple, and found a cache of explosives and bomb-making materials in Jakarta. 

According to the police, the Indonesian couple — who were married six months ago  —  were the only casualties in the Makassar city bombing that left 20 people wounded and was attributed to Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), the largest IS-linked group in the country.

The couple, police said, both were members of the group, were killed instantly after they rode a motorcycle into the church compound and detonated a bomb packed with nails after being challenged by security. 

The authorities added that a suicide note left by the husband was found read that he was ready to die a martyr, while local media on Tuesday reported that the woman was four months pregnant.

As reported in the news, JAD, which has thousands of sympathisers and supporters in the country, has been behind all major terror attacks in Indonesia over the past five years — with police personnel and non-Muslims as the main targets.

“Police are targeted as they are considered to be an obstacle [to the cause], while non-Muslims are targeted because militants are convinced that is an order from God,” said Nasir Abas, the former leader of al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asia branch, Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

According to Nasir, these attacks are expected to continue, as they are rooted in a 2015 call by late IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who urged his followers to carry out attacks wherever they were in the world. 

Al-Baghdadi was killed in 2019 when he detonated a suicide vest during a raid by United States special forces in Northern Syria.

He added that as JAD has been affiliated with IS since its early days, it is committed to carrying out [Baghdadi’s] call until today. 

“(The militants) will not stop until a caliphate is established (in Indonesia),” he said. 

Nasir, who was once known as Southeast Asia’s most-wanted terrorist, said al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had made a similar call in 1998 to 1999 when he urged his followers to kill civilians from the US and its allied countries.

However, Nasir said while some members of JI agreed to carry out that call, some did not, including himself. 

Nasir left the group in 2003 as he disagreed with its shift to violent jihad. 

He was arrested that year and released in 2004, and has since been helping the Indonesian government with deradicalisation efforts.

JI was behind Indonesia’s deadliest attack, the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, including 11 Hong Kong residents. Nasir was not involved in the attack.

Following the attack in Makassar, four men were arrested in Jakarta, though the authorities later confirmed they were not linked to the Sunday bombing.

According to national police chief Listyo Sigit Prabowo, the raid in the capital also turned up 5.5kg of powerful explosives — including triacetone triperoxide, which is often used by IS  —  as well as five active pipe bombs. 

Nasir said the discovery of these bombs meant that they have plans to conduct further attacks. 

Also seized during the Jakarta raids were uniforms with the initials “FPI”, which stands for the Islamic Defenders Front, an extremist group that was banned in January.

On Tuesday, the police arrested three women with links to the Makassar attack, Densus88 had arrested 94 terror suspects since the start of the year, while five other suspects believed to have links to the attackers were arrested on Sunday and Monday in Bima city, West Nusa Tenggara province, according to national police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan who spoke to local reporters. 

With the latest arrests, PAKAR estimates there are currently 70 JAD members in Makassar, indicating that terror attacks are likely to continue in the city.

“Their preferred method of attacks is bombings, rather stabbing, as we can see with what happened in the past,” he said, adding that the group’s members were likely to choose bombs as they cause “more casualties and create headlines”.

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