Police Shut Out as Students Barricade Bomb-Blast Pesantren

An Islamic boarding school here on Sumbawa Island was the scene of a makeshift siege on Tuesday as armed students prevented police officers from entering to investigate a suspected bomb blast there the previous day.

The school was thrust into the public spotlight two weeks ago when one of its student killed a policeman, and on Monday the school’s treasurer died after it was rocked by an explosion believed to have been caused by a homemade bomb.

National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Anton Bachrul Alam said on Tuesday that police had arrested 10 possible suspects following the explosion at the Umar bin Khatab pesantren in Sanolo village, Bolo subdistrict.

A spokesman for the West Nusa Tenggara Police, Adj. Comr. Sudjoko, said the explosion occurred at about 3:30 p.m. on Monday, killing a man identified as Firdaus, the school’s treasurer.“

The preliminary finding is that the blast was caused by the detonation of a homemade bomb,” he told journalists in the provincial capital, Mataram.

On Tuesday, a source from Densus 88, the police’s elite antiterror squad, said it believed the students were “most likely” learning how to make bombs when one exploded accidentally.

“Local officers have been barred from entering the school by the students, who are armed with weapons such as swords,” said the source, who declined to be named.

The source said that although police did not want a clash, “if there is no other choice, then we will use limited force.”

West Nusa Tenggara Police have deployed officers from the Mobile Brigade (Brimob) unit and specialized riot police to the scene to control the situation.

A platoon of soldiers from the subdistrict command has also been sent to safeguard the area.Sudjoko said the school had been uncooperative and students had resisted all police efforts to enter the school to investigate the explosion.

“More efforts are now being made and hopefully there will be an agreement and a way out so that the thing we all don’t want to happen can be prevented,” he said.

Anton confirmed that negotiations with the school were ongoing. “We don’t want a clash to happen,” he said.He said the police believed that bombs were being made at the school so they could be used in attacks on the police, although he did not elaborate.

Police have been the target of a series of attacks in recent months, including the bombing of a mosque at a police compound in Cirebon, West Java, in April and the gunning down of two policemen in Central Sulawesi in May.

Meanwhile, villagers armed with sticks and stones clashed with police as they attempted to block a main road linking the districts of Bima and Dompu, which is the home district of the dead man, Firdaus.

Three teenagers aged between 14 and 17 had been shot, residents said, while the police reported that only one resident was hit by a rubber bullet and had been taken to the hospital.

Dompu Police Chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Agus Nugroho said the villagers were furious the Bima Police had refused to hand over Firdaus’s body before an autopsy was conducted.

On June 30, one of the school’s students, 16-year-old Sa’ban Umar, allegedly went to the Bolo subdistrict police station and stabbed an officer to death.Sa’ban was quoted by police as having said he attacked the policeman because he was an infidel who enforced rules and regulations that went against Islam.

Son Hadi, a spokesman for Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), a hard-line group founded by convicted terrorist Abu Bakar Bashir, acknowledged that the boarding school in Bima had links with his organization.

“However, I don’t know what happened there,” he said. “I’m still trying to get confirmation from officials from JAT’s Bima chapter.”

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