Surabaya police hunt for sleeper family terror units
Every Sunday the three Surabaya families behind Indonesia’s deadliest terror attacks in more than a decade would meet for a private prayer group led by Dita Upriarto — an outwardly successful businessman who lived a double life as the head of a local Islamic State-affiliated militant cell.
The group would watch pro-jihadist films, including ISIS content from Syria, and the children — aged from eight to 18 — would be “home schooled” in the radical Islamic ideology that would lead all three families to carry out or attempt a series of suicide bombings using their kids as cover.
A suspected member of terrorist group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah was shot dead in a gunfight with police as they attempted to arrest him last night. Another 13 people were arrested in connection with the attacks, in which four of the children were used as suicide bombers and another two died in a premature blast as their father tried to build another bomb in an apartment on the outskirts of Indonesia’s second-largest city.
Police were hunting senior members of the Surabaya cell of JAD, the ISIS-affiliated umbrella group of Indonesian militant outfits, which planned and executed Sunday’s church bombings and the suicide attack the following morning on the police headquarters.
A bomb disposal squad yesterday uncovered a large cache of explosives — including several pipe bombs — from the home of the police headquarter attackers.
“Our team on the ground is moving,” East Java police chief Machmud Arifin said.
“We are mapping the network. We have an idea of who they are. We will pursue the network both down to the supporters and up to the leaders.”
At least 26 people have been killed and another 54 wounded in the attacks, which began on Sunday morning with a series of near-simultaneous bombings outside three churches across Surabaya.
All six family members involved in Sunday’s church attacks are among the dead, including two girls aged nine and 12 who were fitted with suicide belts by their father, Dita, and then led to their deaths by their mother, Puji Kuswati. Also dead is the cell’s alleged bombmaker, Anton Febrianto, his wife, Puspitasari, and two children, aged 17 and 15. Two daughters aged 11 and 10 survived.
Dead too is Tri Murtiono, his wife and two sons who blew themselves up outside police headquarters. What information the police have on the three families has been pieced together largely from neighbours and the bombers’ three surviving children, including eight-year-old Aisyah severely wounded in her family’s suicide attack on Monday.
“The three children told us they were indoctrinated. They were shown movies about jihad,” General Machmud said.
While Dita schooled the children in radical Islam, their mothers were accomplices. “They shared the same ideology as their husbands. They were also involved in indoctrinating their children. This is one network, one teacher, one leader. They met every Sunday. They were very close.”