Police transferred nine suspected terrorists, bound and wearing black hoods, to Jakarta on Thursday following their arrest in southern Sumatra.
According to the police, a raid Wednesday in the Sumatran port city of Palembang by an elite Indonesian counterterrorism team, Detachment 88, turned up more than a dozen homemade bombs and a cache of ammunition, indicating that the group had been planning a major attack.
A police spokesman refused to give further details, saying that the prisoners were being interrogated about the nature of their plan and their individual roles within the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network.
The police confirmed that at least one of the suspects was Singaporean, sparking rumors that it might have been Mas Selamat Kastari, an alleged leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, who has been on the run since his escape from a Singapore prison in March.
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Sidney Jones, a terrorism expert who is the director of International Crisis Group in Jakarta, however, said Mas Selamat was not among those caught in the Wednesday raids. “They are all certainly members of Jemaah Islamiyah,” Jones said. “And at least one is Singaporean, but he is definitely not Mas Selamat.”
Indonesian media quoted an anti-terrorism official as saying that the men were planning an attack on Westerners in Jakarta, but no details were given.
Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to have a vast network throughout the island of Sumatra.
Authorities suspected that Noordin Top, a Malaysian-born Jemaah Islamiyah militant, was hiding in Palembang in early 2007 and some analysts say he may have started a splinter terrorist group. He is believed to be responsible for several major terrorist bombings in Indonesia and remains at large.
Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for most of the major attacks in Indonesia in recent years, including the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed more than 200 people.
The militant wing of Jemaah Islamiyah, however, has been seriously weakened in recent years after the capture of several key leaders, including the group's master bomb-maker, Azhari Husin, who was killed in a shootout in 2005.
Indonesia's success in fighting terrorism prompted the Bush administration to renew military ties with the country. And the State Department lifted a travel advisory last month that had warned Americans that terrorist attacks were possible.
Australia, which has worked closely with Indonesia in its fight against the militant network, has refused to lift its travel warning for Indonesia, however, saying there is still evidence that terrorists are planning attacks.