As a pack of school kids chased him shouting, “terrorist!,” the bomber made his way to the Arjuna subdistrict government administrative office while laughing at the kids and taunting them with a knife along the way, says Kompas.com. Once in the Arjuna office, all staff escaped, and the terrorist began to set the second floor offices on fire. He shouted at civilians who accosted him, rejected negotiating attempts by police, and demanded that Indonesia’s main counter terror force, Densus 88, release its Islamist prisoners.
While all this was happening, a handful of students secured the suspect’s motorcycle and identity card, which he left behind.
Shortly after police secured a perimeter around the target building, reports the Jakarta Post, the West Java Police Mobile Brigade (SWAT) breached the building – under cover of fire hose spray from the fire department – and shot the bomber. He died of his wounds shortly thereafter.
Indonesian police on 28 February identified the bomber as Yayat Cahdiyat. He was a member of the terror group, Jamaah Anshar Daulah (JAD.) JAD is one of several Indonesian groups that has pledged support to ISIS. Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) says JAD is the country’s most deadly terror organization.
Yayat, say police, is also a former terrorist convict, having served two years in prison beginning in 2012 for Islamist terrorist training and related activities in Aceh.
The police are investigating eyewitness accounts that assert that Yayat had an accomplice at the beginning of the attack.
Regarding the bomb, police said it was contained in a pressure cooker, a tactic that both al Qaeda and ISIS have propagated in their online magazines and forums. It was used to great affect in the 15 April 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. There is no word yet on the compound used, but investigators found copious bomb making materials at Yayat’s home, says Tempo.co.
There are four takeaways here. First, this attack is a continuation of ISIS’ Indonesia campaign, which picked up momentum via a string of small attacks and failed attack attempts in 2016. Muir Analytics reported on them here.
Second, this attack, like others in 2016, was oddly ineffectual. Yayat’s bomb, apparently a low power device, did not seem to target any specific people or a building. On the other hand, he certainly attacked the Arjuna subdistrict office, and he clearly meant to extort the government for release of his terrorist comrades from captivity. Yayat’s actions and words demonstrated that he was a clear and present danger to Indonesian society, but he did not massacre the civilians around him when indeed he could have. This might be a sign that some members of ISIS-related groups are trying to avoid civilian casualties and instead focus on government targets. These groups need society’s support to survive and flourish.
As an aside, there is commentary suggesting that Yayat, despite the deradicalization programs he went through in prison, were none too effective, and that he had trouble reintegrating back into society. If true, his attack might have partly been a “suicide by cop” scenario.
Third, it is significant that Bandung civilians (including high school students,) a) chased the bomber, b) accosted the bomber, and c) secured his motorcycle and ID card, all as the attack was unfolding. These actions were not only brave, they prove that the Indonesian government has successfully mobilized parts of the civilian population to reject Islamist jihadi ideology and act against it as an extension of law enforcement. This is artful counterinsurgency methodology.
Fourth, the fact that the Bandung police were able to both secure the scene and inject its SWAT force into the melee so quickly indicates a high state of counter terrorism readiness on behalf of the state. The entire operation was finished in less than two hours.
Regarding assessments, Muir Analytics’ January 2017 prognostication posted here remains relevant. In short, ISIS related groups are likely to continue small and frequent attacks while attempting intermittent punishing and sensational attacks in order to remain relevant. Yayat’s seemingly timid attitude toward civilian casualties should not be taken as ISIS’ modus operandi. It tried to carry out Bali style attacks in 2016, which would have killed scores of civilians. It will try again.
The Indonesian government will need to continually improve upon its largely successful counter terror and counterinsurgency strategies to keep this from happening. Fervently attacking the Islamist jihadi ideology will be necessary in 2017.
Sources and further reading:
“Police Search House of Bandung Bomber, Confiscate Evidence,” Tempo.co, 28 February 2017.
“Bandung Bomber Does Not Act Alone: Police,” Jakarta Globe, 28 February 2017.
“Bandung Bomber Is affiliated with Islamic state: Police,” Jakarta Globe, 28 February 2017.
“Bandung terrorist suspect was ‘recidivist’: Police,” The Jakarta Post, 27 February 20-17.
“Suspected terrorist in Bandung captured alive,” The Jakarta Post, 27 February 2017.
“No casualties reported in Bandung terrorist attack: Police,” Jakarta Globe, 27 February 2017.
“Pelaku bom Bandung sempat dikejar puluhan anak SMA,” Kompas, 27 February 2017.
“Suspected Bandung terrorist dies en route to hospital: Police,” The Jakarta Post, 27 February 2017.
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