JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Hours after Indonesia announced it had foiled an alleged plot to bomb the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta, hundreds of hard-line Muslims gathered outside the mission Friday calling for jihad in that country to fight against persecution of their Islamic brothers.
Two suspected militants were arrested the night before, and five homemade bombs were seized from a backpack they were carrying after authorities were tipped to their whereabouts, said National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar.
Their interrogation led to a rented house where other explosive materials were found.
Amar said the men, Achmad Taufiq, 22, and Sefa Riano, 29, were part of a cell allegedly involved in recent attacks against Indonesian police.
“They have a link with terrorism from evidence we have seized,” Amar said. “We are still investigating and searching for other alleged group members.” Amar would not say when the embassy attack was to have taken place.
He said the suspects told authorities they wanted to retaliate against Myanmar for recent attacks on Rohingya Muslims there.
Meanwhile, up to 2,000 police were deployed Friday to secure the Myanmar Embassy and its ambassador’s house before a demonstration by the Islamic Defenders Front. Several hundred protesters showed up dressed in white with some holding banners that read: “We want jihad” and “Stop genocide in Myanmar.”
They gathered in the street in front of rows of police, peacefully waving flags and shouting: “Muslims unite! Will not be defeated!”
The U.S. Embassy issued a notice urging its citizens to stay away from the area. Truckloads of officers, many in riot gear, were placed at nearby buildings and hotels while water cannons and armored vehicles were parked on the street.
Similar protests with hundreds of participants were also held in the central Java town of Solo and at a Buddhist temple in Medan, the provincial capital of North Sumatra.
Sectarian violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar has killed scores, and thousands of Muslims have been driven from their homes. Earlier this week, one person was killed and 160 mosques, homes and shops were destroyed in an area not far from Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city.
Members of the Rohingya ethnic group in particular face severe discrimination. They are considered to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite the fact many were born in Myanmar.
Indonesians have rallied in defense of Rohingya Muslims in the past, and last year jailed radical Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir sent a letter to Myanmar’s president threatening to attack the country over their persecution.
Ten days ago, Bashir issued a new call for jihad and urged Indonesian Muslims to go to Myanmar to fight.
Bashir is the spiritual leader of al-Qaida-linked militants blamed for a string of deadly attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists, on the resort island of Bali.
“I can’t wait to go to Myanmar for jihad to defend our Muslim brothers there,” said Adit Pratama, 26, who attended Friday’s demonstration, adding funds are now being raised to help Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and for those who are ready for jihad there.
A month after initial Bashir’s threat, a would-be suicide bomber surrendered to police after a change of heart, saying he had contemplated targeting Buddhists over the Rohingya issue.
Terrorist attacks aimed at foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces.