A huge arms haul in Indonesia has unearthed the Islamic State's plan to carry out terror strikes in different parts of the world under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic. According to experts, the seizing of 2,300 rounds of assault rifle ammunition was the biggest such arms haul in over two decades, Asia Times reported.
Indonesian investigators also arrested three suspects belonging to the ISIS-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD). Jamaah Ansharut Daulah was responsible for series of terror strikes in Indonesia, including the suicide bombings at churches in Surabaya city in 2018. Dozens of people had died in the attack in Indonesia's second largest city.
JAD behind deadly bombings
JAD, which is affiliated to Isis, was also behind the 2016 bomb and gun attack in Jakarta that killed eight people. Indonesia became the focal point of Southeast Asia's fight against terrorism after the January 14 attack in Jakarta city centre showed affiliate cells of Isis could strike at will in an Asian city.
Hundreds of people from Indonesia, the country with the world's biggest Muslim population, moved to join Isis in the Middle East after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi launched the dreaded terror outfit from his Syrian-Iraqi turf. Indonesia's terror threat is heightened by the fact that the radicalised people return to the home soil to launch attacks.
Indonesia's counterterrorism agents also made the arrests in the Surabaya suburb of Sidoarjo. The police also seized Pindad-made SSI-V4 sniper rifle, which is seen in the possession of specialized elements of Army Strategic Reserve (Kostrad) raider battalions, AT added. In another raid, police seized 2,000 rounds of ammunition in a west Jakarta location and arrested three more suspects.
Mujahideen of Eastern Indonesia
In another incident, a man in Central Kalimantan was arrested after he was found trying to plant a home-made bomb in a mosque.
In Central Sulawesi, militants belonging to the Mujahideen of Eastern Indonesia (MIT) took up arms against the security forces, but the clashes left five extremists dead. MIT was one of the militant groups in Indonesia that followed the ISIS call to take up arms under the cover of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The arrival of the virus gave MIT new hope that victory was near," Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), told the Asia Times.
Western nations on alert
Many countries around the world are on heightened alert for Isis attacks as they fear the terror group might take advantage of the fluidity of the conditions in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. "It is almost certainly correct that Covid-19 will handicap domestic security efforts and international counter-Isis cooperation, allowing the jihadists to better prepare spectacular terror attacks," the International Crisis Group said in a statement.
The Islamic State had also asked its followers to launch strikes against the western nations like the US, Italy, Britain and France that are the hardest hit, The Guardian had reported. UK's Scotland Yard had said it was monitoring if Isis is targeting busy places like hospitals. "We're seeing the exploitation of the circumstances to encourage acts of violence," the Yard chief told the Independent.