ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Militant role in Sunday church bombing
Sunday’s suicide bombing at a Protestant church, the first major terror attack in Solo, has exposed the city to scrutiny for its role as a militant stronghold as police sources say they are searching for a man linked to the bombing of a mosque in Cirebon in April.
The two main suspects in that bombing were killed by police near Solo in May.
Sources say police now believe that a man named Achmad Yosepa Hayat, who is wanted for a role in the Cirebon attack, could be the Solo bomber.
“We need to wait for DNA tests to confirm this,” a high-ranking officer with the National Police’s anti-terror squad told media on condition of anonymity.
“There are at least seven or eight terrorist groups based in Solo,” International Crisis Group analyst Sidney Jones said. “However, we can’t conclude the suicide bomber belonged to one of them so quickly.”
In addition to members of terrorist cells, Jones said, there are numerous individuals in the area who may sympathize with fundamentalist aims and carry out attacks on their own.
The Central Java city has long been a convenient hiding place and gathering point for militants and their supporters, analysts say.
Since last June, at least 10 suspected militants have been captured or killed in police raids in and around Solo.
Two years ago, most-wanted terror suspect Noordin M. Top was killed in a police raid in a Solo subdistrict. “Solo is the supplier of key militants, although they have chosen to act outside Solo,” said security analyst Noor Huda Ismail.
High-profile figures have often met in Solo to plot major attacks because they perceived Solo as “the best hiding place,” Huda said.
Solo is also home to the Ngruki Muslim boarding school and the controversial Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid organization, both founded by convicted militant cleric Abu Bakar Bashir.
Sunday’s attack, Huda speculated, likely was meant to spur radical action in response to renewed sectarian clashes in Ambon that claimed several lives earlier this month.
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