Bagus BT Saragih and Nana Rukmana
Although the National Police have not confirmed whether a Cirebon resident was behind the suicide bombing at a mosque in the West Java town as rumored, a counterterrorism squad has searched his house and questioned family members to trace those behind the attack.
The National Police held a press conference Sunday only to announce that preliminary investigations had yet to confirm Muhammad Syarif was the suicide bomber, citing difficulties in performing a comprehensive and scientifically legitimate DNA test.
“It takes three to 12 days to perform a complete DNA test,” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam said.
A suicide bomber detonated a low-explosive bomb strapped to his body during Friday prayers at the Az-Dzikra mosque inside the Cirebon City Police compound.
Twenty-five people, mostly police officers, were wounded. Cirebon Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Herukoco was among those injured. Herukoco was flown from Cirebon to Jakarta earlier Sunday for treatment at Pertamina Central Hospital in South Jakarta.
On Saturday, Anton promised to announce the identity of the alleged suicide bomber on Sunday.
Many have claimed that the alleged bomber, whose picture was released by police shortly after the bombing, was 35-year-old Cirebon resident named Muhammad Syarif.
Syarif’s neighbors and family acknowledged the resemblance.
Anton said the police had followed up the information by taking blood samples from Syarif’s parents, Abdul Kadir and Sri Mulat, “to make sure the bomber really was [Syarif]”.
“Although his family acknowledged and brought pictures depicting a very similar man, we need to prove it scientifically. We need to be 100 percent certain in accordance with investigation standards,” Anton said.
Police have so far questioned 44 witnesses in connection with the incident, he added.
He said the police’s disaster victim identification (DVI) team was still working to complete the DNA test as soon as possible.
Later on Sunday, members of the police’s Detachment 88 counterterrorism squad searched the home of Syarif’s parents-in-law in Panjalin Kidul village, Majalengka, West Java. The police deployed the Indonesia automatic fingerprints identification system (Inafis) team to find fingerprint evidence, Antara news agency reported. Other reports say Syarif and his wife, Sri Maliha, used to live in the house. Sri is reportedly pregnant and expecting a child any day now.
Earlier this month, the country’s number-one terrorist fugitive, Umar Patek, was captured by Pakistani officials. It remains unclear whether Umar, one of the 2002 Bali bombing masterminds, will be repatriated to Indonesia.
When asked if there were any links between Syarif and Umar, Anton said, “We are still studying it.” West Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Suparni Parto said he was 90 percent certain Syarif was the suicide bomber.
“We also suspect Syarif was behind the murder of an army officer in early April. We found his driving license at the crime scene,” he said Sunday.
First Corporal Sutejo, who was stationed at the Sumber military district command in Cirebon, was stabbed to death at Cempaka village, Talun, on April 3 while on duty. Sutejo died after his throat was slit and he was stabbed in the chest, face and back.
Anton, however, said Syarif’s possible involvement in the murder was “still being studied”.
Also on Sunday, Mochamad Saladin, an elder from the Cirebon royal house of Keraton Kanoman, admitted that Syarif had family ties to the royal court.
“Every citizen is equal before the law. We leave the case to the country’s law enforcement officers,” Saladin said.