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Publication Date : 29-10-2012
As details of Indonesia's recent terror crackdown emerge, one of the 11 people arrested — Mustofa Bilal alias Abu Hanifah — has been linked to slain master bomb maker Noordin M Top.
Terrorism expert Al-Chaidar of Malikussaleh University in Aceh said that Hanifah might have been a former student of Top, who was one of the masterminds of the 2002 Bali bombing and was shot dead by police in 2009.
"There are reports that Hanifah learned to make bombs from Top in Banten and that he allegedly helped hide Top from the police in Surakarta," Al Chairdar said.
The police have thus far refused to confirm over Hanifah's ties with Top, a Malaysian national.
Residents of Jl. Lawu Timur IV in Mojongsolo, Surakarta, said that Hanifah, or Mus as residents called him, rarely blended in, despite a penchant for organising sermons and discussion groups. "I often saw him organising sermons for people, especially for men," a resident who declined to be named said yesterday.
The resident said that Hanifah often grew enraged if his neighbours held parties or drank alcohol. "He once disbanded a group of people who got drunk during a celebration party in his village," the resident said.
Another resident, Supriyadi, said that the house where Hanifah lived belonged to his father, Baron, 70.
However, Supriyadi said that he was not aware of Hanifah's activities inside the house, as most guests who came to visit were not from the neighbourhood. "In the house was a mushola, but we don't know for sure what they usually did in the house," Supriyadi said as quoted by Antara new agency. A mushola is a small prayer room.
According to Wiwit, who said he was one of Hanifah's closest associates in the neighbourhood, the suspected terrorist graduated from a university in Surakarta.
During a raid at Hanifah's house on last Saturday, the police found homemade bombs that were ready to be detonated, bomb making materials and assorted firearms.
Officers from the National Police's Densus 88 counterterrorism unit also arrested Agus Anton Figian, 31, in Madiun, East Java, this weekend. Figian graduated from Jember University in East Java with a degree in mathematics in 2004.
According to Figian' neighbours, many residents regularly saw him carrying a gun. One neighbour, Bambang, said that he saw Figian carrying a gun and dressed in camouflage fatigues one night outside his house in Sewulan, Madiun.
Although Figian has reportedly been identified as one of the leaders of a terrorist group, the police explained how the 11 suspects currently in detention were connected.
Others arrested in the roundup included Davit Ashary, 19, and Herman Setiono, 22. The brothers are residents of Palmerah, West Jakarta, and were described by neighbours as devoted Muslims.
"Ashary and Setiono got along well with their neighbours and they never conducted any suspicious activities," said Udiyanto, the head of their neighbourhood unit.
Udiyanto said that the brothers were living with their mother, Siti Mariyam, a factory worker. Their father died 10 years ago. "Ashary is a friend of my son. I never suspected anything about him and his brother," Udiyanto said.
According to Udiyanto, the police confiscated bomb making material from the brothers' house after their arrest.
Nita, 35, who lives near the brothers, said yesterday that Setiono, who was unemployed, was a religious man who was often visited by people wearing Islamic garb who would pick him up for what she described as "religious activities". "I don't know where they went afterward. They didn't go to the nearby mosques," she said.
Meanwhile, Arif Fahriansyah, the nephew of terrorist suspect Sunarto Sofyan, or Narto, who was arrested in Tanah Abang, Central Jakarta, insisted that his uncle was not part of any terrorist group. "I wonder why they always associate a man with beard with terrorism. My uncle is not a part of any terrorist group," he said.
Fahriansyah said that his uncle worked at a delivery service in Tanah Abang, and lived at his parents' house.
The 11 suspected terrorists were reportedly former members of the Harakah Sunni for the Indonesian Society, or Hasmi.
The group allegedly planned to attack the US and Australian embassies and the headquarters of PT Freeport Indonesia in Jakarta; the US consulate in Surabaya, East Java; and the National Police Mobile Brigade special operation unit headquarters in Srondol in Semarang, Central Java.