Indonesia foils plot to detonate bombs via Wi-Fi

Hannah Beech and Muktita Suhartono, The New York Times

Posted at May 17 2019 03:21 PM

A general view shows the business district during the dusk in Jakarta, Indonesia, May 2, 2019. Willy Kurniawan, Reuters

LOMBOK, Indonesia — The Indonesian police say they have foiled a suspected terrorist cell with the ability to use Wi-Fi to detonate explosive devices, highlighting advances in bomb-making in a country with a history of militant activity tied to the Islamic State group.

Several of the suspects, who were arrested in raids last week on the densely populated island of Java, are members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, or JAD, a local militant group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, the police said.

During the raids, counterterrorism agents found bomb-making equipment and traces of triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, a highly unstable homemade explosive that is sometimes used by the Islamic State outside the Middle East. TATP was used in Islamic State bombings in Paris and Brussels, as well as last month in Sri Lanka, where more than 250 people were killed by suicide attacks at churches and hotels.

One of the suspects in the Indonesia plot, a skilled bomb-maker who was arrested May 8, was perfecting the process of detonating a bomb through Wi-Fi networks, Dedi Prasetyo, the national police spokesman, said Thursday. Dedi said that militants were planning to launch attacks next Wednesday when the official results of Indonesia’s national elections are expected to be tallied.

Because Indonesia has been the site of repeated attacks by radical Muslim militants, the authorities sometimes use phone-signal jammers during mass gatherings to prevent bombers from remotely activating explosive devices. But Dedi said that jamming a Wi-Fi signal is harder to do.

On Tuesday, counterterrorism officers on Java arrested nine people suspected of militant activity, seven of whom had returned from Syria, where the Islamic State had constructed a caliphate before its territory was overrun this year.

The most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world, Indonesia is a vibrant democracy in which the vast majority of people follow a moderate form of the faith. But Muslim extremists have carried out attacks and called for the nation’s political system, with its guarantee of freedom of religion, to be replaced by a Southeast Asian caliphate.

2019 New York Times News Service