U.S. issues security alert on Indonesia ahead of election results

Indonesia on map used to illustrate the story
Indonesia

The U.S. embassy in Jakarta on Saturday issued a security alert, ahead of election results due on Wednesday as Indonesian authorities arrest almost 30 suspected militants, including some who the police say “are able to detonate bombs using Wi-Fi networks.”

The embassy advised U.S. citizens to avoid areas where large demonstrations may occur in Jakarta and in other cities, including Surabaya in East Java and Medan in North Sumatra, in a statement that was dated Friday, May 17.

Indonesian authorities have said they are heightening security ahead of May 22, when the official result of April’s presidential election will be announced.

Indonesian National Police spokesman, Muhammad Iqbal, told reporters in a briefing on Friday that police this month arrested 29 suspects linked to Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) – the largest Islamic State-linked group in the country.

They have confiscated no less than five homemade bombs in various locations across Java and North Sulawesi.

“Some of the suspects have had paramilitary training and went to Syria as foreign fighters,’’ Iqbal said.

Indonesian police also revealed that some of the suspects have learned how to use Wi-Fi to detonate explosive devices, although it was not immediately clear how advanced their plans were.

“Detonating bombs using a Wi-Fi network is considered a new technique,’’ Dedi Prasetyo, another National Police spokesman, told Reuters on Tuesday, and gets around using phone signals, which can be jammed during rallies involving large crowds.

“If there is cell phone jammer, then phones are not operable but the Wi-Fi signal will not be disturbed, especially when using signal amplifier,” Prasetyo said.

The police spokesmen did not answer or return phone calls to get more information.

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Arrests

The police arrested EY, a local leader of JAD in Bekasi, near the capital Jakarta, on May 8 in the capital for plotting attacks during next week’s announcement of the presidential election.

The police identified the suspect only by his initials.

JAD does not have an official spokesman, and it is not known if any of the suspects have retained legal representation.

“For this group, democracy is an ideology that they do not agree with,” Iqbal said on Friday, adding that the National Police advise people not to make unnecessary trips on the day the results are announced.

He said that this would be dangerous because “they want to attack anyone, including officers, with bombs.”

The arrests are part of the authority’s efforts to tighten security ahead of an announcement by the General Election Commission on May 22, when almost 32,000 police and military personnel will be on standby in Jakarta.

The announcement is expected to confirm unofficial counts by private pollsters that showed incumbent President Joko Widodo as having won the race, a result which has been publicly disputed by his contender, an ex-general, Prabowo Subianto.

Mr Prabowo’s supporters have pledged to protest peacefully if the official result confirms Mr Widodo’s victory, and large groups of people could be out in the streets after the announcement. (Reuters/NAN)

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