JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian police said on Friday they had uncovered plots to attack a European embassy and a police ceremony in the capital Jakarta, with some Islamist militants involved and explosives still unaccounted for.
Police have said militants may be switching tactics from bombing Westerners — such as in nightclubs in Bali in 2002 and luxury hotels in Jakarta last year — to armed attacks on state targets and institutions such as the president and the police.
The police’s anti-terror unit Detachment 88 this week arrested five men in Java, discovering documents revealing plans to attack an embassy and a police anniversary on July 1, which the militant group referred to as “a birthday gift.”
“The motive is revenge because police have captured their friends,” national police spokesman Edward Aritonang told a news conference.
“It is not timely to say in detail what the plans would be, but we are worried that if the plan is that big, then maybe the preparation is not only limited to these guys that we have arrested.”
Local media, quoting police sources, have reported the diplomatic target was the Danish embassy, but Aritonang declined to confirm this.
Denmark has been a frequent target of Islamist militants following the publication in a Danish newspaper in 2005 of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad.
Aritonang said militants had “prepared a handful of electronic devices to set up bombs” but that they were not connected to any explosives. “They (the explosives) might be stowed away in another place,” he told reporters.
In this week’s raids, police captured the country’s most wanted Islamist preacher, Abdullah Sonata, shot dead a militant who used to be in the Indonesian army and seized revolvers, ammunition, and electronic devices for assembling bombs.
Indonesia has improved security through crackdowns on militants in recent years, but experts have said more still needs to be done in the country, Southeast Asia’s largest economy and a current favorite for emerging market investors.
Aritonang said the government needed to find a new method to treat militant convicts and detainees given the fact that many ex-prisoners convicted under the anti-terror law have resumed activities after being released, including Sonata.
“We need to work comprehensively to stop these terrors from growing further. We need to return to the prisons and find new methods so that prisons are not used as schools,” he said.
Reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu; Editing by Neil Chatterjee and Ron Popeski