As Jakarta becomes the latest victim of terror, security forces are finding it increasingly difficult to identify patterns behind attacks.
Indonesia has been hit by a suspected suicide bombing, the deadliest since January 2016. The attack occurred on May 24 near the densely-populated Kampung Melayu bus terminal in the capital Jakarta. At least three police officers were killed and 10 others injured in the twin blasts.
Questions are now being asked about the nature of the attack and the people behind it. But as evidence mounts following a fact-finding mission by local law enforcement and counterterrorism forces, the most important issue is whether the incident shows how terrorist attacks have become so widespread that they are unpredictable. With the sporadic nature of such incidents — the Jakarta attack took place just days after an assault on the Philippine city of Marawi and the Manchester Arena bombing in the United Kingdom — it is becoming increasing difficult to analyze their pattern.
WHAT HAPPENED IN JAKARTA?
At 9pm local time, the first bomb exploded near the bus terminal. Approximately 10 minutes later, the second bomb was detonated, leading to chaos in the surrounding area.
On May 25, Inspector General Setyo Wasisto said at a press conference that the police had secured several pieces of evidence at the crime scene, including traces of clothes, backpacks, slider cables and phone casings, as well as slabs of aluminum and a receipt of pressure cookers bought at a minimarket in Bandung, the city where the suspects came from.
Wasisto added that fragments found at the scene showed indications of similarities with the bombing in Bandung last February, which saw explosives packed into a pressure cooker. It is believed the bomb in Jakarta was more powerful than the one used Bandung.
If the perpetrators were connected to the Bandung bombing, it is possible that the motive behind the Jakarta attack was similar: for the police to release prisoners held by Indonesian counterterrorism forces.
But was the latest attack directed at the police? It could have been, as most victims were law enforcement. Police officers were in the area guarding a parade welcoming the Islamic holy month of Ramadan by a group of local people. It seems the perpetrators took advantage of the large presence of police officers in the area.
REACTIONS TO JAKARTA
Since the attack, there have been the inevitable Daesh (Islamic State) questions in the media, given the fact that it took place just days after the Manchester bombing and the assault on Marawi. Whether the Jakarta attacks were inspired or directed by extremists outside Indonesia is a question that remains unanswered.
What is at stake today is the unpredictability of places, motives and targets of terrorist groups and extremists. With the Bali bombings of 2002, the motive and targets of Jemaah Islamiyah militants were clear: They saw tourists as spreading Western values that they deemed incompatible with Indonesian and, more importantly, Islamic culture.
However, with the rise of groups such as Daesh and its affiliates, terrorist attacks have become increasingly sporadic. For Jakarta in particular, it is difficult to identify what the main reasons were behind the attack. The neighborhood is a Muslim-majority area with a large middle-class population. While the location itself is a busy part of the capital that is positioned near the TransJakarta bus stop, it is not a popular with expatriates or tourists, nor is it considered a high-profile site for diplomats, who have been targeted in previous attacks. Even if the main target was the police, why would an attack take place at a time when Muslims were celebrating the arrival of Ramadan?
Regardless of the motives, safeguarding the community has now become increasingly difficult as security forces struggle to identify patterns behind such incidents. Indeed, deadly attacks can happen anywhere and at any time, leaving the public vulnerable to danger.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.
Photo Credit: Zodebala
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