Three suspected Uzbek militants escaped from an immigration detention center in Indonesia’s capital after fatally stabbing an officer and seriously injuring four others, police said Wednesday.
Two were later recaptured and the third drowned in a canal while being pursued by police, said Aswin Siregar, operations chief of the elite counterterrorism police group known as Densus 88.
The three men were among four Uzbek nationals detained by Densus 88 on March 24 following a tip from Uzbekistan’s state security service that they were believed to be members of the al-Qaida-linked militant group Khatiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, Siregar said.
He said they arrived in Indonesia from Turkey in February and authorities detected that they were spreading propaganda and recruiting followers on social media. They were detained and held in an immigration detention center in western Jakarta while awaiting deportation proceedings.
Three of men broke through the ceiling of their detention room on Monday and attacked officers who were having their predawn meal during the Ramadan fasting month, Siregar said. The fourth man did not join the escape attempt and remained in custody, he said.
He said an immigration officer was fatally stabbed after the three men grabbed knifes from a pantry. Four officers, including two Densus 88 members, were hospitalized with serious injuries, he said.
A preliminary investigation showed that the attack was triggered by fears among the men that they would be deported to their home country after they were visited by consular officers from the Uzbekistan Embassy, Siregar said.
“They had tried to flee because they did not want to be sent back to Uzbekistan and face harsher punishment,” Siregar said, “We are still investigating this case, but they will be tried in Indonesia for the killing.”
He said two of the suspects had traveled to Syria and joined a militant training camp there.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has carried out a sustained crackdown on Islamic militants since bombings on the tourist island of Bali in 2002 by the Jemaah Islamiyah network killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
The network was neutralized following the arrests of hundreds of its members. But new threats have emerged from Islamic State group-inspired radicals who have targeted security forces and local “infidels” instead of Westerners.
Since March 2022, Khatiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, a splinter faction of the Uzbek-led militant organization Jannat Oshiklari, has been on a U.N. Security Council sanctions list for being associated with al-Qaida.
The Security Council said the group has about 500 fighters and operates under the umbrella of the international extremist organization al-Nusrah Front in the Syrian provinces of Hama, Idlib and Ladhiqiyah.
In 2016, the group organized an attack on the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, according to the U.N. The sanctions imposed by the Security Council include a travel ban, an assets freeze, and an arms embargo.