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A police investigation into last month’s Jakarta hotel bombings shows that militants also planned to use snipers to attack Barack Obama’s convoy when the U.S. president visits Indonesia, an intelligence expert told Reuters.
Authorities were also probing whether the suicide bombings at the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels on July 17 received overseas funding from a group linked to Al Qaeda, said Dynno Chressbon, an intelligence analyst at the Center for Intelligence and National Security who is close to the police investigations.
He said two of four wanted suspects – Ario Sudarso and Mohamad Syahrir – who police released pictures of on Wednesday had been prepared as snipers for an attack on Obama.
“For Obama, they planned to attack the convoy around the airport using MK-IIIs,” he said, referring to a type of Russian-made sniper rifle that he said was used by the Taliban in Afghanistan and also in Muslim conflict areas in the Philippines.
An Indonesian police spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday, but the sniper plot and other suspected plots indicate the scale of the ambitions of Indonesian militants may be far higher than first thought.
Obama has been widely expected to include a stopover in the world’s most populous Muslim nation when he attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Singapore in November.
The alleged snipers were from a group called the Indonesian Islamic State, which has a training camp in the restive southern Philippines and also has received support from a group headed by Malaysian-born militant Noordin Mohammad Top, Chressbon said.
Top, who formed a violent wing of the Jemaah Islamiah militant network, is believed to be the mastermind behind July’s hotel attacks which killed nine people and wounded 53.
Since the hotel bombings, police have arrested at least five people and three others have been killed during raids, while police said a plot to attack Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had been thwarted.
Al Qaeda link
A possible Al Qaeda connection to the hotel attacks and other plots was also being investigated, Chressbon said, after two men believed to be from Yemen had stayed at the Marriott at the same time as an Indonesian called Syaifudin Zuhri bin Djaelani Irsyad, or SJ, who is believed to have recruited the suicide bombers.
Police believed the two men from Yemen were connected to Anshar El Muslimin, a group linked to the Al Qaeda network in Iraq set up by the late Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, Chressbon said.
The men had stayed in room 1621 at the Marriott from July 15-17 and claimed to be airline crew, but police suspect they were involved in the plot, he said.
“They booked and said they were Yemen Airways staff,” he said, adding that the airline had said its staff did not use the Marriott for stopovers.
Asked about the role of the two men from Yemen, Ansyaad Mbai, head of the anti-terrorism desk at Indonesia’s security ministry, said police were trying to confirm a link with the attacks.
“Of course, they have suspicions into this but it cannot be confirmed yet so it’s impossible for them to say,” Mbai said.
Police spokesman Nanan Soekarna told a news conference on Wednesday that police had arrested a man believed to be a Saudi national and a local man suspected of being involved in arranging funding for the hotel attacks.
Chressbon said militants had also been discussing a plot to attack the APEC summit in Singapore, holding a meeting in July 2008 in Solo, Central Java, and another in Cilacap, also in Central Java, in June which Top is believed to have attended.
At the Solo meeting, the two Yemenis had met a Singaporean national called Husein bin Ismail, also known as Hendrawan, who is now in police custody, he said. Ismail had brought a map of the APEC summit site in Singapore to the meeting, Chressbon said.
Militants, including Top, had also held an April 5 meeting in Jakarta at which they discussed a list of possible targets in Jakarta in addition to the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton, including other luxury hotels, the Chinese embassy, an American Express building and a DBS Bank building for attacks slated over a period between August 5-17, Chressbon said.
The meeting also discussed possible attacks on the residence of President Yudhoyono, the presidential palace and the election commission building in central Jakarta, Chressbon said, although no timetable had been set, he added.
Police have previously said that Top had chaired a meeting on April 30 where a plot was hatched to carry out a suicide attack on Yudhoyono’s residence using a truck packed with explosives in retaliation for the execution of the Bali bombers last year.
Authorities had seized up to half a tonne of explosives suspected of being prepared for the attacks, police said.
Chressbon said militants had also been planning another wave of attacks after August 23, including on a mall in Jakarta and three malls in Makassar, Sulawesi, while offices in Jakarta housing foreign resource companies had also been targeted.
Terrorist plot to slay Obama made mid last year: intelligence
The terrorist group’s plan to slay the United States President Barrack Hussein Obama during his Indonesian visit was initiated since mid last year, the Kompas.com news portal reported here on Monday.
Indonesian terrorist expert Dynno Chressbon said that the plot to kill Obama was made by the terrorist group’s leader Noordin M.Top and his Singaporean Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) colleague Mas Slamat Kastari in Surakarta, Central Javasince when Obama was campaigning to run in the United States presidency in July last year.
He said that during his campaign, Obama had said that he would like to visit Indonesia, the country he spent his childhood, as the president of the United States.
According to Dynno, the plan to kill Obama was drafted in the house of a suspect who was recently announced by the police for his involvement in July 17 bombing at J.W. Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels, Budi bagus Pranoto alias Urwah.
“The initial meeting was attended by Noordin M. Top, Singaporean JI Mas Slamat Kastari and their accomplices. The plan was discussed later in Cilacap, Wonosobo, Bogor and Jakarta” the expert who leads Intelligence and State Security Study Center said.
Noordin, he said, just escaped from the raid of police’s anti-terror squad detachment 88 in Palembang when he was about to set up his terrorist cell in the capital of South Sumatra province.
During the initial meeting, Noordin brought in his operative Saifuddin Zuhri who was eventually arrested by Indonesia’s anti-terror squad in Cilacap in June this year along with bomb materials. Zuhri was tasked to become the bomb supplier for the terrorist cell in Palembang.
Meanwhile, the Singaporean terrorist who escaped from Singaporejail, mas Slamat Kastari also brought in his accomplices that comprised of Samad ibn Subari alias Syamsul Anwar and Taslim.
Samad and Taslim had been arrested by detachment 88 squad. Samad was arrested in Tanjung Karang Lampung province two months ago, while Taslim was arrested in Palembang along with 22 bombs that were stored at the ceiling of his rented house around last year. Dynno said that Taslim and Mas Slamat Kastari had plans to bomb Singapore Changi international airport.
In the meetings after the initial one held in Surakarta, Noordin had tasked Ario Sudarso and Mohammad Syahrir, two of Noordin’s accomplices who were recently declared suspects by the police to become the snipers in assassinating the U.S. president during his Indonesian visit scheduled for November this year, he said.