Police in Indonesia announced Wednesday that they had thwarted a plot to attack Christmas celebrations in Jakarta after a gunfight left three suspects believed to be tied to the Islamic State dead.
An investigation had led police to a home on the outskirts of the capital city Wednesday, where they launched a raid and demanded the suspected terror cell surrender. The men — whom the Jakarta Post identifies as “Omen,” “Helmi,” and “Irwan” — instead threw an explosive at police, leading officers to kill them at the scene.
“We asked them to surrender, but the three suspects threw a bomb at our personnel,” police spokesman Brigadier General Rikwanto explained.
Police found a variety of explosives in the house upon neutralizing the suspected terrorists and were forced to diffuse two that the suspects had apparently activated.
Police explained that the evidence that led them to the house indicated that the three were planning on attacking a police station in a stabbing spree. That attack was meant to lure observers and more police, who would then be in the line of fire of their explosives. The Jakarta Post quotes Rikwanto saying that “their targets were police personnel guarding the crime scene” that would be created by the stabbing. The dual bomb tactic has been used throughout the world by Islamic State jihadis, intended to kill first responders.
Australia’s ABC News reports that police suspect this particular terror cell was radicalized by the Islamic State, though they have not clarified whether the men were in direct contact with Islamic State leaders in the Middle East or merely enthusiasts of the Islamic State’s propaganda work online. Police did note that they had evidence linking this group to another group of jihadis arrested earlier this week for allegedly plotting a suicide bombing targeting Jakarta’s presidential palace.
The news of jihadis potentially planning a Christmas attack follows an announcement by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the nation’s highest Muslim authority, of a fatwa against Christmas-themed decorations or costume. “Religious images and accessories are used intentionally to show the identity of a certain religion… for this reason, the use of non-Islamic accessories is against the law, as it is asking Muslims to wear them,” MUI head Hasanuddin said this week.
The fatwa has triggered panic in Indonesia’s Christian community of radical Islamic groups targeting Christians and decorated Christian-owned businesses for attack, although the fatwa does not ban Christians from celebrating their own religion. The Indonesian National Police officially disregarded the fatwa, referring to it as a religious mandate that police cannot enforce. The MUI responded by issuing a statement claiming they had “warned against sweeping raids, but the promotion of this fatwa should continue.”
In addition to the police distancing itself from the fatwa, the Indonesian military has warned that it will act against Muslim mobs if necessary. “Whatever the terms they use, be it fatwa familiarization or implementation, no mass organizations are allowed to conduct raids and take the law into their own hands,” Jakarta Military Commander Lt. Col. Wahyu Yudhayana said Tuesday.