BANDUNG – A Muslim militant and convicted bomb-maker who was released from prison last year blew himself up Wednesday at a police station on Indonesia’s main island of Java, killing an officer and wounding 11 people, officials said.
The attacker entered the Astana Anyar police station with a motorcycle and detonated one of two bombs he was carrying as police were lining up for a morning assembly, said Bandung city Police Chief Aswin Sipayung. The other explosive was defused.
A video that circulated on social media showed body parts near the damaged lobby of the police station, which was engulfed in white smoke as people ran out of the building.
Food vendor Herdi Hardiansyah said he was preparing meals behind the station when a loud bang shocked him.
He saw a police officer whom he recognized as one of his customers covered in blood, being carried on a motorcycle by two other officers to a hospital. He later learned the officer died. Ten others and a civilian were wounded.
National Police Chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo told reporters when he visited the station Wednesday afternoon that the attacker was believed to have been a member of the militant organization Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, or JAD, which pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and was responsible for other deadly suicide bombings in Indonesia.
He said police identified the man as Agus Sujatno, also known by his alias Abu Muslim. He was released from the Nusakambangan prison island last year after completing a four-year sentence on charges of terrorist funding and making explosives that were used in a 2017 attack on a municipal building also in Bandung, the capital of West Java province.
JAD was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. in 2017.
Sujatno was still on police “red” lists of militant convicts after being freed from prison because of his rejection of the government’s deradicalization program, Prabowo said.
“He was still difficult to talk to, and tended to avoid the (deradicalization) process,” Prabowo said.
The deradicalization program has been used since 2012 as part of the government's soft approach to rehabilitate militants and wean them off radical views so they can better integrate into society once they are released. According to the National Counterterrorism Agency, from about 2,500 militants arrested between 2000 to 2021, about 1,500 have been released from prisons, and nearly 100 of them were recaptured in several attacks or for plotting attacks.
The deradicalization process involves discussion classes with religious figures, prominent scholars and community leaders, as well as financial assistance for opening a business once militants are released.
Prabowo said he ordered police task force units and the counterterrorism squad to investigate the latest attack and find other possible culprits.
West Java Police Chief Suntana, who uses one name, said a paper taped to the perpetrator’s motorbike was recovered with the words, “Criminal code is the law of infidels, let’s fight the satanic law enforcers.”
Indonesia’s Parliament on Tuesday passed a new criminal code that, among other things, bans insulting the president and state institutions.
“Using the new criminal code can only be seen as a momentum by terrorists to launch their action,” said Adhe Bakti, the executive director of the Center for Radicalism and Deradicalization Studies. “Police and places of worship are actually the main target of JAD since the beginning.”
He urged police to strictly monitor those on their “red” lists, because he said convicted militants who refuse to take part in the deradicalization program are likely to commit acts of terror again.
“They have to be continuously offered (to join the program) like a salesman offering his wares,” he said.
Indonesia has battled militants since bombings on the resort island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. Attacks aimed at foreigners have largely been replaced in recent years with smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, police and anti-terrorism forces and people who militants consider infidels.
In 2019, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a busy police station in Medan, Indonesia’s third-largest city, wounding at least six people.
In May 2018, two families carried out a series of suicide bombings on churches in the city of Surabaya, killing a dozen people including two young girls whose parents had involved them in one of the attacks. Police said the father was the leader of a local affiliate of Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Anshorut Daulah.
Last year, two attackers believed to be members of JAD blew themselves up outside a packed Roman Catholic cathedral during a Palm Sunday Mass on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, killing the two attackers and wounding at least 20 people.
Karmini reported from Jakarta, Indonesia.