Asia

Facebook used to plot Myanmar Embassy attack

Facebook used to plot Myanmar Embassy attack
Suspected militant Separiano is on trial at the South Jakarta District Court. Photo: AP
Prosecutor says suspect studied bomb-making on the Web, reached other extremists through social networking site
Published: November 7, 4:03 AM

JAKARTA — A man suspected of plotting to attack the Myanmar Embassy in Indonesia went on trial yesterday on charges of terrorism that could result in a death sentence.

Prosecutors told the South Jakarta District Court that Separiano, 29, and four others wanted to retaliate against Buddhist-majority Myanmar for attacks there on ethnic Rohingya Muslims. The four other suspects are expected to go on trial later this week.

Separiano and another suspect were arrested on May 3 while riding a motorcycle to the Embassy in Jakarta, the police said. Five homemade bombs were seized from a backpack they were carrying and other explosive materials were found later at their rented house in the capital.

Days later, the police arrested three other suspects, including Sigit Indrajit, the alleged mastermind.

In the indictment, prosecutors charged Separiano with violating anti-terrorism laws, which carry a maximum penalty of death.

“They wanted to bomb the Embassy because of anger over Myanmar’s treatment of Muslims,” said prosecutor Susilo who, like Separiano and many Indonesians, uses a single name.

He added that the suspect had studied bomb-making on the Internet and had bought materials to make bombs. He communicated with other extremists on Facebook to plan the attack, reports quoted Mr Susilo as saying.

The prosecutor said Separiano met Sigit, leader of the Negara Islam Indonesia group, on the social networking site, where they discussed retaliating against predominantly Buddhist Myanmar for the Rohingya clashes. Sigit said in one post: “We will set off our explosion as a surprise for the embassy.” Separiano responded with “Yes, OK”.

Scores of people have died in sectarian violence in Myanmar and thousands of Muslims have been driven from their homes. Members of the Rohingya ethnic group, in particular, face severe discrimination. They are considered to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many were born in Myanmar.

The violence in Myanmar has led to calls for jihad, or holy war, by hard-line Muslim groups in Indonesia, though none have appeared capable of sending fighters there. However, Indonesia has a history of Islamic terrorism, and the huge country was torn apart by bombings more than a decade ago by Al Qaeda-linked extremists. Better security efforts in the past several years have diminished the intensity of attacks, but anti-terror police regularly break up small networks.

Almost 90 per cent of Indonesia’s 240 million people are Muslim.

In April, eight Myanmar Buddhists were killed in fighting with Muslims from Myanmar at a detention centre on the island of Sumatra, where they were being held for illegal entry. Agencies