Jakarta. A number of suspects arrested in an anti-terror crackdown following the Sunday’s church bombing in Makassar have suspected links to the now-defunct Islamic Defenders Front or FPI, police said on Tuesday.
At least seven suspects have been arrested in the South Sulawesi capital since the attack.
The suspects have once pledged allegiance to global terror network Islamic State at a FPI local office, National Police spokesman Chief Comr. Ahmad Ramadhan told reporters in Jakarta.
Among them are three women who police said “knew and motivated” the suicide bombers.
The officer didn’t say when the pledge was taken or where exactly the FPI office was.
In separate raids in Jakarta and neighboring Bekasi, police seized items connected with the FPI, including clothes, books and membership cards.
The bombing near Katedral Church in Makassar injured at least 20 people and killed the two bombers identified as Muh Lukman, 26, and his wife Yogi Sahfitri Fortuna aka Dewi.
Police said they couple, both are natives of South Sulawesi, were married six months ago.
The three female suspects in custody were identified by initials MM, MAN and M.
“MM knew in detail about the bombing plot and motivated the couple to carry out the attack,” the police spokesman said.
Another female suspect saw off the couple heading to the target on a scooter on that Sunday morning, the officer added.
The couple blew themselves up in front of the church gate after being denied entry by a security guard when a third round of the Sunday service inside the church was about to begin.
The heroic guard identified only as Kosmas, 52, suffers burns in his head and abdomen. He is currently being treated at police hospital in Makassar.
Ahmad denied that the police were caught off guard by the latest attack.
“There have been many arrests between January and the [church] bombing. Counterterrorism squad Detachment 88 has arrested at least 94 terror suspects in pre-emptive strikes since January,” the officer said.
Four men were arrested in East Jakarta and Bekasi on Monday in connections to the church bombing.
Police seized clothes and books depicting FPI logo and explosive devices from the suspects.
Jakarta Police Chief Insp. Gen. Fadil Imran said Detachment 88 will expand the investigation based on evidence and preliminary findings, including alleged links to the FPI.
“Investigators with the Detachment 88 will follow up these for sure,” Fadil said briefly at his office.
The four suspects are identified by initials ZA (37), BS (34), NAJ (46) and HH (56).
One of the suspects is a former senior member of the FPI accused of financing the bombing.
Police said at least two of the suspects were seen near the East Jakarta courthouse during health protocol violation trial against FPI leader Rizieq Syihab.
In addition, police also arrested four terror suspects in West Nusa Tenggara province.
Police believe all the suspects and the two suicide bombers belong to homegrown terror group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), whose leaders have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The JAD has become the most active terror cell operating in Indonesia since at least 2018, when three churches in Surabaya became a target of coordinated attacks.
The group’s so-called supreme leader Rizieq Syihab is currently on trial for alleged health protocol violations.
A lawyer for Rizieq dismissed police allegations against the FPI as “intelligence operation” to smear his client.
“Habib Rizieq Syihab is against terrorism and he has made that very clear repeatedly,” lawyer Aziz Yanuar said in Jakarta.
“Just because you find his poster in a terror suspect’s house, it doesn’t mean you can conclude a link. Any premature conclusion will only show that there is intelligence operation to smear Habib Rizieq,” the lawyer said.
The government included FPI into the list of proscribed organizations in December 2020, citing links to terrorism and violent acts against civilians.
Chief Security Minister Mahfud MD said the FPI has been technically without any “legal standing” since June 20, 2019, when its permit expired and the government refused to renew.
“The organization has been legally disbanded but the FPI continues with activities breaching the law and order," Mahfud said at that time.
That led to a joint decision by the country’s law enforcement agencies to entirely ban the FPI.
According to the government data, at least 35 members or former members of the group have been implicated with terrorism and 29 of them are convicted.
Moreover, 206 FPI members were involved in other criminal acts and at least 100 of them were found guilty by the court.