Wed, 30 Apr 2003

Probe on airport bombing hits snag

Damar Harsanto and Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Bali

The police have hit a brick wall in their investigation into Sunday's explosion at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, saying they had failed to obtain any significant evidence or clues at the blast site.

Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Makbul Padmanagara claimed that a broken close-circuit television camera near the blast site had hampered the investigation.

"One of the cameras close to the blast site was out of order," said Makbul.

Commenting on a black cap found at the blast site, Makbul said the police had failed to identify its owner.

Police have questioned more than 10 witnesses.

Makbul said that it was difficult to obtain clues from the fingerprints found at the blast site because it was a busy area and many had been found.

Effendi, the technical operations manager of airport management firm PT Angkasa Pura II, told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday that the domestic terminal was often teeming with people.

He said that 11,000 to 12,000 passengers departed on domestic flights every day. About 7,000 of them depart from Departure Terminal F, where the explosion occurred.

The police have vowed to tighten security at the airport.

Separately, chief of the National Police Criminal Investigations Directorate Comr. Gen. Erwin Mappaseng said that there were indications that the bombings at the airport, behind the UN office in Jakarta and at Medan City Hall were planned by the same people.

"From the facts we gathered from the crime scenes, we assume that the bombings were executed by the same person(s)," he said on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of the second Bali Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Translational Crime.

He shared the opinion of National Police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar that the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) could be behind the explosions.

He also stressed that the police did not find any similarities between the explosion in Bali and the three other explosions.

A criminologist from the University of Indonesia, Erlangga Masdiana, warned the police not to dismiss the possibility that the bomb attacks at Soekarno-Hatta Airport and other places could have been committed by different groups.

"The police must be professional and uncover the brains behind the string of bombings in the country, not only the executors but also the masterminds," said Erlangga.

Otherwise, Erlangga said, explosions would continue nationwide.

Erlangga warned that if the police failed to solve the bombings, the public would become desensitized to violence and terror.

"It's really alarming as people will become desensitized to violence or the threat of terror," Erlangga said.

If the public were to become apathetic toward violence and terror, Erlangga said, it could create a breeding ground for anarchy.

The airport bomb was the fourth explosion in the capital this year. In addition to the one behind the UN office, two low-yield devices exploded in February this year: one at Wisma Bhayangkari at the National Police Headquarters in South Jakarta and another in an empty field in Cakung, East Jakarta.