JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesian police said a suspected Islamic militant arrested earlier this week was making explosives more powerful than those used in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
National Police spokesman Rikwanto said Saturday that Rio Priatna Wibawa, 23, is believed to be linked to Bahrun Naim, an Indonesian militant fighting with the Islamic State group in Syria who is believed to have inspired attacks at home including a January attack in the capital Jakarta that killed eight people.
Rikwanto, who goes by one name, said bomb-making explosives were recovered from a laboratory in Wibawa's home in Majalengka town, West Java province. With his "ability," Wibawa could have created bombs three times as powerful as the Bali bombs, Rikwanto said.
A security crackdown since the 2002 Bali bombings that were carried out by the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah militant group has netted hundreds of radicals and reduced their capacity for large attacks. But a new threat has emerged from the hundreds of Indonesians who have traveled abroad to fight with IS and their supporters in Indonesia.
Rikwanto said Wibawa, a dropout from an agricultural university who was radicalized by the writings of firebrand cleric Aman Abdurahman, received funds from radicalised Indonesians working in Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Taiwan, and was operating under the direction of Naim.
Several other suspected militants were involved in the bomb-making and police are searching for them, Rikwanto said. Police, from their interrogation of Wibawa, believe he obtained bomb-making materials from contacts in Java, Sumatra and East Nusatenggara in Indonesia as well as the Philippines.
Possible targets for attack were parliament building, police headquarters, embassies, television stations, places of worship and cafes, according to Rikwanto.
Chemicals seized from Wibawa's laboratory included RDX, which is a component in plastic explosives, TNT, high explosive peroxide HMTD and gunpowder.