Wed, 25 Sep 2002

Grenade explosion may link to loan dispute: police

The Jakarta Post Jakarta

After conflicting statements made about a deadly grenade explosion near a house belonging to the U.S. Embassy on Monday, the police have linked the fatal incident to a loan dispute, quelling allegations that the case may have been an act of terrorism.

"The interrogation of some suspects and witnesses hasn't yielded any indication that the blast was linked to terrorism. It's just common debt collection stuff," said City Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Anton Bachrul Alam.

Citing statements made by some suspects, Anton said the suspect killed in the blast, Abdul Azis, 30, was working as a debt collector.

"The grenade exploded prematurely due to the bomber's lack of expertise in handling explosives," Anton said.

However, Anton said the police were unconvinced over the suspects' statements. "We will do some crosschecking when we arrest the other two suspects who are still at large."

Azis was killed when the grenade exploded inside a Kijang van on Monday at 3:30 a.m. on Jl. Teluk Betung, Menteng, Central Jakarta.

National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said on Monday that the target of the attack was the house belonging to the U.S. Embassy. But later in the day, Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara said it was too early to say if the assailants had planned to throw the grenade at the building.

The police are questioning three suspects over the blast: M. Yusuf G. Taul, 26, the driver of the van, Hasan Nahumaruri, 22, and Rian Lestaluhu, 28. Police are also searching for Lili and Taita, the other two suspects who fled the scene.

Separately, an intelligence source confirmed that the recent grenade explosion was economically driven and revolved around a dispute between two local businessmen, identified as Hasyim and Sandy, in which the latter failed to repay the former Rp 5 billion (about US$550,000).

"The suspects were believed to be debt collectors and had just arrived here from the conflict-torn area of Ambon. They were amateurs," the source said, requesting anonymity.

"It was such a coincidence that the attack occurred at a time when the U.S. was launching its campaign to find out if al-Qaeda was operating in Indonesia," he said.

"They (al-Qaeda members) have a contact person and are developing its network here. Based on our intelligence report, almost 90 percent of the al-Qaeda suspects living in this country are of Arabic descent," he said.

But he stopped short in disclosing who might be held responsible for a series of bomb attacks that recently rocked the country.

He also denied allegations that the attack was made as an attempt to create disinformation among the public.

Meanwhile, the military said it had yet to see solid proof that the international terrorist group had been operating here and was building up its network with the country's hard-liners.

"The Army Headquarters has not found any evidence of al- Qaeda's existence in Indonesia. There is terrorism in every country, but on al-Qaeda, there's been no such reports yet," Army Chief Gen. Ryamizard Ryacudu told reporters.

Accusations have been flying that the incident was part of an intelligence operation in support of CIA documents and the U.S.'s recent claim that its interests in Indonesia might be the target of terrorism from certain hard-liners here.