With battered ISIS urging its followers to take advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic’s disruption and launch renewed attacks around the world, Indonesian counter-terrorism police have seized a startling amount of ammunition in raids at opposite ends of Java.
Terrorism experts say the 2,300 rounds of ammunition, all of it for assault rifles and other service weapons used by the police and military, is the most Indonesian militants are known to have had in their possession in almost two decades.
Three suspects allegedly belonging to the ISIS-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) were arrested on April 26 by the Detachment 88 counterterrorism unit in the Surabaya suburb of Sidoarjo, along with 288 rounds of 5.56 mm and 9 mm ammunition.
Also seized in the raid was a camouflaged Pindad-made SSI-V4 sniper rifle, normally carried by specialized elements of Army Strategic Reserve (Kostrad) raider battalions, and two 9 mm Browning automatic pistols.
In an unrelated incident in southern Central Kalimantan, a new sanctuary for fugitive militants, local police arrested a man who was tracked by street cameras after planting a home-made bomb in a mosque.
Police are saying little about what might have been planned for the weaponry, but as one security source told Asia Times: “It’s very disturbing. They have to get to the bottom of it. It’s not that easy to get ammunition in that quantity without someone missing it.
The only clear sign of Indonesian militants heeding the ISIS call to arms is in Central Sulawesi, where Mujahideen of Eastern Indonesia (MIT) extremists have recently lost five followers in jungle clashes with security forces around Poso, the provincial capital.
“The arrival of the virus gave MIT new hope that victory was near,” said Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) director Sidney Jones, pointing to new recruits joining the small, rag-tag band that can still call on some local support.
Last June, police arrested 34 suspects in Central Kalimantan for allegedly planning a suicide bombing in Jakarta. Some were members of JAD who fled Java in 2018 after trying to establish a training camp on the jungled slopes of Mount Salak, 90 kilometers south of Jakarta.
Currently the bastion of the Islamic-based Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS), the only opposition party in Parliament, western Java has handed Widodo crushing defeats in two successive elections, although he regained much of that ground in Central and East Java.
JAD was responsible for the 2016 bomb and gun attack in downtown Jakarta that left eight people dead, as well as the May 2018 suicide bombing of three churches and a police station in Surabaya which killed 15 bystanders and 13 of the bombers.
Asia Times / ABC Flash Point News 2020.