In what appeared to be a coordinated attack, two bomb packages were sent on Tuesday to a leading liberal Islamic activist and a former antiterror police officer.
The first, sent to Liberal Islamic Network co-founder Ulil Abshar Abdalla in Utan Kayu, East Jakarta, aroused suspicion and was reported to the police. But police officers attempting to defuse the bomb accidentally detonated it, causing one officer to lose his hand. Two other officers escaped serious injury.
The second package was addressed to Comr. Gen. Gories Mere, a former key officer of the National Police’s elite counterterrorism unit, Densus 88. It was sent to his office at the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) in Cawang, East Jakarta.
The bomb was not opened and was safely disposed of, the head of the Jakarta Police’s bomb squad, Sr. Comr. Wahyu Widodod, told the Jakarta Globe.
He said the package was similar to the one sent to Ulil, which contained a thick book in which the bomb was hidden.
In an accompanying letter, the sender had asked Ulil to write a preface to the book, titled “They Deserved to Be Killed: Because of Their Sins to Islam and Muslims.”
National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam said he believed the bombs were sent by a terrorist group.
“Who else is capable of creating such a bomb if not an expert from the old terror cells?” he said, referring to Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist network blamed for a string of bloody bombings between 2002 and 2005.
A police bomb squad source said that similar bomb packages were common during the sectarian violence in Poso, Central Sulawesi, especially in 2006.
Both Gories, who led a number of successful raids against extremists, and Ulil have been targeted by terrorists and hard-liners in the past.
In February, radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir mentioned Gories by name during preliminary hearings in his trial on terror charges in the South Jakarta District Court. The cleric called Densus 88 as a tool of the United States, Australia and their allies to combat mujahedeen, or Muslim fighters engaged in jihad, in Indonesia.
“Densus 88,” he said, “is dominated by Christian officers led by Gories Mere.”
Ulil has been accused by hard-liners of being an agent for pro-American, anti-Islamic groups, for which they cite as evidence his master’s degree from Boston University and PhD from Harvard.
Hard-liners issued a fatwa calling for his death after he wrote an opinion piece for Kompas newspaper in 2002, titled “Rejuvenating Islamic Understanding.”
However, Ulil says he believes that politics, rather than his struggle for religious tolerance, was behind the attempt on his life on Tuesday.
“I have always been advocating religious freedom. Why only now, after I joined the Democratic Party?” said Ulil, who is a member of the national leadership board of the president’s party.
Following the attacks, Djoko Suyanto, the coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs, said “the government strongly condemns the perpetrators of acts of terror, whoever they are.”