SYDNEY: Australia and Indonesia on Monday agreed to boost intelligence-sharing in the fight against terrorism, days after police arrested several men allegedly linked to a planned suicide bombing in Jakarta.
During raids in several cities across Java on Friday and Saturday, police detained five members of an alleged extremist network and seized chemicals, laboratory equipment and a flag inspired by the Islamic State group.
The operation was reportedly sparked by a tip-off from the Australian Federal Police and the FBI.
Following annual bilateral talks with counterpart Retno Marsudi in Sydney, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she could not go into detail about the alleged plot, but said intelligence-sharing was critical.
“Suffice to say that Australia is always prepared to play its part and in this instance it would appear that the Indonesian police have been very successful in thwarting an attempted terrorist activity,” she said.
“Overall Australia and Indonesia are co-operating extremely closely on the whole issue of countering terrorism… we will continue to co-operate in sharing information, sharing intelligence, for the safety and security of our respective people and the region.”
Among those arrested was Asep Urip, a 31-year-old teacher at an Islamic boarding school in Central Java, and his 35-year-old pupil Zaenal, whom police allege was being “groomed” to carry out an imminent attack.
A subsequent raid on the teacher’s house uncovered a black flag inscribed with text “similar to an ISIS flag,” police said, referring to an acronym often used for IS, which controls large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
Marsudi did not go into detail about the alleged plot, but said: “On the intelligence-sharing, this is one of the most important issues that we have to do under the context of the counter-terrorism cooperation.”
The Java raids came a month after Indonesia increased security at its airports following a threat directed at one of the airports serving Jakarta.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, suffered several major bomb attacks by Islamic radicals between 2000 and 2009, including the 2002 Bali bombings which killed 202 people.
But a crackdown has weakened the most dangerous extremist networks.
However, the emergence of IS has sparked alarm that Indonesians returning from battlefields in the Middle East could revive them.
Australia is equally alarmed at the threat from those being radicalized, with Monday’s meeting, which also included defense ministers, focusing on national security, including counter-terrorism, as well as economic ties.
Six attacks in Australia have been foiled over the past year, according to the government, but several have not, most recently in October when a police employee was shot dead by a 15-year-old reportedly shouting religious slogans.