Jakarta: Indonesian police Friday arrested three men on suspicion of links to the brazen attacks in the heart of the country's capital, and said they recovered a flag of the Islamic State group from the home of one of the attackers.
The discovery of the flag bolsters authorities' claim that the attack yesterday was carried out by the Islamic State group, which controls territory in Syria and Iraq and whose ambition to create an Islamic caliphate has attracted 30,000 foreign fighters from around the world, including a few hundred Indonesians and Malaysians.
The arrests of the three took place at dawn at their homes in Depok on the outskirts of Jakarta, police said in a text message, citing Col. Khrisna Murti, director of criminal investigations who led the raid. It said they were arrested for suspected links to the attackers. MetroTV. It broadcast footage of the handcuffed men being escorted by police.
Five men attacked a Starbucks cafe and a traffic police booth with hand-made bombs, guns and suicide belts yesterday, killing two people - a Canadian and an Indonesian – and injuring 20. The attackers were killed subsequently, either by their suicide vests or by police.
National police spokesman Maj. Gen. Anton Charliyan told reporters a black IS flag was found in the home of one of the attackers and police believe they have established their identities.
He says two of the five men were previously convicted and imprisoned for terrorism offenses.
The IS link, if proved, poses a grave challenge to Indonesian security forces because until now the group was known only to have sympathisers with no active cells capable of planning and carrying out such an attack.
In recent years Indonesian anti-terror forces had successfully stamped out another extremist group known as Jemaah Islamiyah. It was responsible for several attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 bombings of bars in Bali, which left 202 people dead, as well as two hotel bombings in Jakarta in 2009 that killed seven people.
Terrorism experts say IS supporters in Indonesia are drawn from the remnants of Jemaah Islamiyah.
A few hundred Indonesians are known to have travelled to Syria to join the IS. Few have come back. Still, police believe that an Indonesian IS fighter, Bahrum Naim, who is in Syria may have inspired and instigated the Jakarta attack.
Jakarta residents were shaken by yesterday's events but refused to be cowed. The area near the Starbucks cafe remained cordoned off with a highly visible police presence. Onlookers and journalists lingered, with some people leaving flowers and messages of support.
Newspapers carried bold front-page headlines declaring the country was united in condemnation of the attack, which was the first in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, since the hotel bombings in 2009.