Noordin Mohammed Top, initially believed to have died during a spectacular shootout in Central Java, may have been captured alive. Indonesian authorities are interrogating a terror suspect arrested Friday night who a witness said looks like the Malaysian fugitive.
The suspect, Ahmad Fery, was detained Friday night during a raid on a safe house in the Jatiasih area of Bekasi, a Jakarta suburb, that authorities say disrupted planned major attacks and netted over 500 Kg of explosives.
A neighborhood official who had previously spoken with Fery told Detik News on Sunday that he closely resembles Noordin.
“If I were to compare him with what police have put on television, Ahmad Fery looks a lot like Noordin,” Sundoyo, the official, said. He described Fery as standing 165 cm tall, having short hair, white skin, and a clean mustache and beard. Authorities have not commented on the report.
Fery rented a house in the Puri Naspala neighborhood of Jatiasih, Bekasi, with Amir Abdullah, who is also known as Amir Ibrohim, a few weeks before the July 17 terror attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels in Jakarta. Both men are suspected of involvement in the attacks and are also believed to have been planning upcoming attacks during Indonesia’s independence day celebrations on August 17.
“Neighbors reported strange behavior,” Sundoyo said. “Someone saw Ahmad Fery enter the house regularly through the window.” When confronted, the neighbor said Fery claimed that he lost his keys. Neighbors also complained about constant noises during nights and the steady stream of strangers that visited the house. “It’s not clear who they were,” he said.
Police told Sundoyo that the identity card Fery showed to him when applying to rent the house is a forgery. The name “Ahmed Fery” is likely to be fake.
The plot unraveled after Amir Abdullah was captured in north Jakarta on Thursday and police connected him to Fery and the house in Jatiasih. They spotted Fery in Solo, Central Java, and tailed him as he drove back to Bekasi in a Daihatsu minivan he had picked up. Before he reached the house, they detained him. Initial reports claim that the minivan had been outfitted with a large bomb.
Authorities also raided the house and shot two men who they believe were planning to become suicide bombers in the planned attacks. Air Setiawan and Eko Peyang were shot as they attempted to hurl bombs at police. The lawyer for their families told reporters Sunday that Air had been detained for a month and 10 days during the investigation of the 2003 JW Marriot attack but that evidence was not strong enough to implicate him.
In addition to a car bomb, three bombs that matched the bombs used in the July 17 suicide attacks were discovered in Tupperware containers. It is believed that the presidential palace in Jakarta and the president’s official residence in Cikeas, 5 km from the safe house, were being targeted for the attacks.
Meanwhile, the body retrieved from the site of the 17-hour standoff and shootout in Central Java has arrived in Jakarta and is undergoing an autopsy. Although early reports indicated that police were confident that they had eliminated Noordin, leaked photos of the body’s head and face have cast doubt that Noordin was killed.
“We’re not yet confident to state the identity,” national police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri told reporters Saturday evening. “After conducting DNA tests and collecting other forensic evidence we will be sure who this is. We have the body and have asked relatives to confirm the identity so next week at the earliest it should be resolved… No matter who it is, it’s clear that this person was tied to the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton bombs.”
The circumstances of the Temanggung raid remain murky
According to a detailed report in the daily Kompas, police were led to Temanggung after watching the movement of hardliners that resulted from arrests in Cilacap, Central Java, in late June. Attention fell on the efforts of two brothers, Aris and Hendra, who were offering their uncle’s farm house in Beji as a sanctuary for fugitives in the wake of the arrests, and they were both put on surveillance.
Their uncle, Muhjahri also known as Djahri, was also well-known to counterterrorism officials. He is suspected of being a member of Jemaah Islamiyah. His son, Tataq Lusiyanto, was detained in 2006 for involvement in the 2003 JW Marriott bombing. Tataq’s current whereabouts are unclear but neighbors say he has never been seen again in the village.
Muhjahri keeps to himself, a village official told Kompas, and it is difficult to monitor the presence of guests. However, neighbors had noticed a stream of guests visiting the house since he moved into the house three years ago. Households in Central Java are by custom expected to register guests and introduce them to neighbors. “His house is in the corner of an isolated hamlet between rice paddies and corn fields,” he said. “So it’s not easy for us to know if they host any strangers unless, of course, they report it themselves.”
Authorities, however, observed Aris bring a mysterious individual to the house on Tuesday. They quietly observed the situation and waited until Friday when the brothers traveled into town. The brothers were arrested while going to work at a motorcycle repair shop in downtown Temanggung that afternoon. The men told investigators that the guest resembled Noordin Mohammed Top. Police encircled the house in the early evening and began calling for the suspect to give himself up. He also identified himself as Noordin.
Police are hunting for Saifuddin Jaelani, who is also known as Bang Udin. Police believe Jaelani recruited the July 17 suicide bombers, Dani Dwi Permana and Nana Ikhwan Maulana.
Jaelani was well-known and liked in Bogor, where he was known as an excellent Q’uran reader. He had studied Arabic and religious classes in Yemen. He and Dani were close friends and Dani was known to admire him. Saifuddin disappeared in May, telling friends that he was moving to Cirebon on the northern coast of Central Java to work at an Islamic boarding school. Dani also disappeared, turning up later as a casualty in the attack on the JW Marriott hotel.
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