Los Angeles Times

Indonesia police arrest key terrorism suspect

Authoritie­s believe the militant leads an Al Qaeda-linked group blamed for a string of bombings.


JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s elite counterter­rorism squad has arrested a convicted militant and suspected leader of an Al Qaeda-linked group that has been blamed for a string of past bombings in the country, police said Monday.

Abu Rusdan was seized late Friday in Bekasi, near the capital, Jakarta, along with three other suspected members of Jemaah Islamiah, police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan said.

“He is currently known to be active among the unlawful Jemaah Islamiah network’s leadership,” Ramadhan told the Associated Press.

Indonesian authoritie­s consider Abu Rusdan to be a key figure in Jemaah Islamiah, which the U.S. has designated a terrorist group. The shadowy Southeast Asian network is widely blamed for attacks in the Philippine­s and Indonesia — including the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.

Ramadhan described the arrests as part of a broader nationwide crackdown on the group. Police are still searching for other suspected members, following tips that the group was recruiting and training new members in Indonesia.

Born in Central Java, Abu Rusdan, 61, was sentenced to jail in 2003 for sheltering Ali Ghufron, a militant who was later convicted and executed for carrying out the Bali bombings.

After his release from prison in 2006, Abu Rusdan traveled Indonesia giving speeches and fiery sermons that received tens of thousands of views on YouTube. In one recorded sermon, he praised Afghanista­n as the “land of jihad.” He had previously trained with other militant groups there.

Indonesia’s police counter-terrorism unit, known as Densus 88, has swept up 53 alleged members of Jemaah Islamiah across 11 different provinces in recent weeks.

An Indonesian court banned the group in 2008, and a sustained crackdown by the country’s security forces with support from the U.S. and Australia has helped to weaken the militant network.

A spokesman for Indonesia’s National Intelligen­ce Agency, Wawan Hari Purwanto, said in a video statement this month that after the Taliban takeover in Afghanista­n, officials have stepped up their efforts at early detection and prevention, “particular­ly toward terrorist groups that have links to the Taliban’s ideology and networks.”

Indonesia’s counter-terrorism crackdown has been ongoing for months already.

In the last year, Indonesian officials say counterter­rorism forces have captured dozens of militants and suspected members of Jemaah Islamiah, including its alleged military leader, Zulkarnaen, who had been wanted for more than 18 years.

Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and security forces, inspired by Islamic State group tactics abroad.

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