A 10-kilogram homemade bomb was found under a bench at a police post on Jl. Pulau Sumatra in front of the central Poso market, or some 200 meters from the Poso Police headquarters, as Christians in the Central Sulawesi regency celebrated Christmas on Tuesday.
Police officers found the bomb at 6:30 a.m. local time. It was placed in a jerry can and hidden inside a backpack. The police’s bomb squad managed to defused the bomb.
Poso Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Eko Santoso said that after dismantling the bomb, the police also found a cell phone, which appeared to function as a timer, nitrate urea powder, hundreds of 13-centimeter-long nails and two detonators.
“The timer indicated that the bomb was supposed to explode at 7:30 a.m. local time,” Eko Santoso told The Jakarta Post over the phone.
He said the bomb might have been placed very early in the morning as traders were arriving at the market to start their business activities.
Based on the type and configuration of the bomb, the police suspected the perpetrator(s) belonged to the same group that targeted the police’s traffic post in downtown Poso last October. The group is also thought to have killed two police officers in Tamanjeka and shot patrolling members of the police’s Mobile Brigade (Brimob).
After defusing the bomb, the police swept the entire market area using metal detectors to search for other explosive devices that might have been placed in the area. They also examined all vehicles passing through the area and checked the identities of the respective drivers and passengers.
The bomb, however, did not disturb Christmas celebrations in Poso. Business ran as usual and traffic remained smooth.
Researcher Taufik Andrie of the Prasasti Indonesia Foundation said that recent acts of terrorism in Poso had been aimed at the police and not at civilians.
“It’s because hardliner groups consider the police as thogut who must be fought against,” said Taufik, referring to an Islamic term that describes something worshiped other than God.
The police, according to Taufik, are also seen as an obstacle for the group’s terror acts. Bombings, in this case, had been carried out as a form of protest against the police’s killing their fellow group members. “That’s why they target the police,” he said.
Sectarian conflict broke out between Muslims and Christians in Poso in 1998 and by 2000 the conflict had reportedly killed more than 2,000 people. Following the Malino peace pact in 2001, the conflict ended, but militant groups continued to carry out acts of terror.
These groups are believed to have joined the hard-line group Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) based in Gunung Biru, Tamanjeka hamlet. The local chapter of JAT is believed to be led by long-time fugitive Santoso, who was previously affiliated with the Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorist group.
A few days before Christmas, for instance, tensions between Brimob officers and armed civilians resurfaced as four Brimob officers were killed in an attack in Kalora Village on Dec. 20.
The police have arrested Mutun, alias Dhani, and Solihin who were allegedly involved in recent attacks against the police.
During questioning, the two men admitted that they were members of Santoso’s group, said Central Sulawesi Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Soemarno.
Mutun, who was nabbed just one day after the Dec. 20 assault, confessed that he supplied firearms for the attack.
He also claimed that Santoso was in Poso and was sick, Soemarno said. “He [Mutun], however, did not tell us Santoso’s whereabouts, but he admitted that Santoso is still in Poso,” said Soemarno.