When Indonesian police arrested 11 people on suspicion of planning a series of terrorist attacks, long held suspicions that the next generation of jihadists was about to emerge had perhaps been confirmed.
Haraqah Sunni for Indonesian Society, or HASMI, had apparently targeted the U.S. embassy in Jakarta as retaliation over the U.S.-made film the “Innocence of Muslims.”
Police seized bombs and other explosive materials, ammunition, a bomb making guidebook and a gas cylinder stuffed with explosives during raids in four cities over the weekend.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Other targets included the U.S. Consulate in Surabaya, Plaza 89 near the Australian Embassy, the Jakarta offices of global miner Freeport-McMoRan and the headquarters of the Police Mobile Brigade.
It also came as no surprise.
Indonesian authorities had issued a warning that terrorists might be planning an attack during commemorations marking the 10th anniversary of the Bali Bombings on October 12. The 2002 strike left 202 people dead and was carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), now widely regarded as a spent force.
Commemorations were incident-free.
Other groups have stepped into the vacuum left by JI but their targets had been restricted to protests aimed at churches, and religious minorities such as Christians, Shiite Muslims and the Ahmadiyya Sect. Small police outposts were also attacked in the hope of stealing weapons.
A chief criticism has been leveled at the courts for being too lenient on protesting Islamic militants and that this was encouraging potential jihadists to go further.
Authorities also noted that targets like the U.S. embassy were more likely to register on the militant target list and the U.S.-made film had provided one ideal motive.
The “Innocence of Muslims” was widely panned as the insensitive work of one man that denigrates the Prophet Mohammad. In September, 49 people were killed in attacks around the world, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, amid a wave of violent protests linked to the film.
“At first they wanted to attack offices,” Brig. Gen. Boy Rafi Amar said in reference to Hasmi and its plans to bomb security forces. “And based on documents and other information, the foreign targets were linked with the film which insulted Islam.”
HASMI has been described as a new terrorist group and police with the anti-terror squad Densus 88 are investigating any ties it might also have with older terrorist networks. Members had taken part in anti-Christian protests but were not on the banned list of terrorists groups.
HASMI however, has denied any links to terrorist organizations.
Among those arrested was HASMI’s leader Abu Hanifah, who was seized in Solo and allegedly held connections with the Al-Qaeda-linked group JI and Jama’ah Ansharut Tauhid, a radical offshoot born out of splintered elements inside JI, which was declared a terrorist organization by the U.S. in February.
Whether Hanifah’s plans had matched the ambitions of JI and Al-Qaeda remains a matter for the courts to determine but for the time being he remains in custody and the clearest signal yet that the dawning of a new age in terrorism may have arrived.