Indonesia makes arrests as Daesh claims Jakarta attacks

Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla visit a bomb blast victim at the police hospital in Jakarta. (Reuters)
Updated 26 May 2017

Indonesia makes arrests as Daesh claims Jakarta attacks

JAKARTA: Indonesian police arrested three people on Friday suspected of being linked to suicide bombings in Jakarta, as the Daesh claimed responsibility for the attacks that killed three police officers at a bus station and wounded 12 others.
The attack was the deadliest in Indonesia since January 2016, when eight people were killed, four of them attackers, after bombers and gunmen attacked the capital Jakarta.
After visiting the site of Wednesday’s attacks, President Joko Widodo said Indonesia needed to accelerate plans to strengthen anti-terrorism laws to prevent new attacks.
“If we make a comparison with other countries, they already have regulations to allow authorities to prevent (attacks) before they happen,” Widodo told a news conference.
The president said he had ordered the chief security minister to get the revisions done as soon as possible.
Long-standing plans to reform Indonesia’s 2003 anti-terrorism laws have been held up by opposition from some parties in parliament and concerns about individual rights.
The revisions would broaden the definition of terrorism and give police the power to detain suspects without trial for longer. The changes would allow police to arrest people for hate speech or for spreading radical content, as well as those taking part in para-military training or joining proscribed groups. Muhammad Syafi’i of the opposition Gerindra party, who chairs a committee deliberating the bill, said discussions should be completed this year but there were still outstanding issues such as ensuring checks and balances on the counter-terrorism agency. “This bill needs to be discussed in a cautious and comprehensive way because the purpose of all regulations in this country is to ensure they do not result in the slaughter of Indonesian people, ... but protect them,” Syafi’i told Reuters.
The Daesh group claimed responsibility for this week’s attacks. “The executor of the attack on the Indonesian police gathering in Jakarta was an Islamic State fighter,” the group’s news agency Amaq said.
Indonesia has suffered a series of mostly low-level attacks by Islamic State sympathizers in the past 17 months, but there are concerns that the sophistication is improving.
Police said Wednesday’s attack had targeted officers, using pressure cookers packed with explosives.
“The explosions were described by police on 24 May as ‘pretty big’, and the number of wounded and dead would suggest a still-crude but developing bomb-making capability for militants in Indonesia,” said Otso Iho, an analyst at Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center (JTIC).
Police have identified the suspected suicide bombers as two 30-year-old men from the West Java city of Bandung.
Indonesian police made three arrests on Friday in Bandung related to the attacks and said they had seized Islamic teachings, phones and other items during the raids, Yusri Yunus, head of public relations at West Java Police, said.


Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

Updated 21 November 2019

Top diplomat implicates Trump in explosive impeachment testimony

  • Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky
  • Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much

WASHINGTON: A senior US diplomat directly implicated President Donald Trump Wednesday in a scheme to force Ukraine to probe a political rival, in bombshell testimony to a televised impeachment hearing.
Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told lawmakers he followed the president’s orders in seeking a “quid pro quo” deal for Ukraine to investigate Democrat Joe Biden in exchange for a White House summit.
Sondland said Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani led the effort at Trump’s direction to pressure Ukraine President Volodymr Zelensky for the investigation and that top officials in the White House and State Department knew about it.
The unexpectedly damning testimony drew a sharp backlash from Trump who tweeted: “This Witch Hunt must end NOW. So bad for our Country!.”
Trump said he barely knew Sondland and had not spoken to him much, despite the senior diplomat having donated $1 million to his inauguration and testifying that he had spoken to the president some 20 times while ambassador.
Democrats said Sondland’s seven hours of testimony before the House Intelligence Committee had bolstered their case for Trump’s impeachment for what they have labeled “extortion.”
“Today’s testimony is among the most significant evidence to date,” said committee chairman Adam Schiff.
“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery as well as other potential high crimes or misdemeanors.”
A succession of Democrats hoping to win the nomination to take on Trump in next year’s election also said the testimony had strengthened the case for impeachment as the issue dominated the opening exchanges in their latest televised primary debate.
Sondland said Trump directed him and two other senior diplomats to work with Giuliani.
From early in the year, Giuliani mounted a pressure campaign on Zelensky’s government to investigate Biden over his son Hunter’s ties to a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, and to probe a conspiracy theory espoused by Trump that Ukraine helped Democrats against him in 2016. Biden is one of the favorites to challenge Trump in next year’s presidential election.
“Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing the investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma,” Sondland told the panel.
“Mr Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky.”
Far from being a “rogue” operation outside normal US diplomatic channels, Sondland told the hearing top officials — including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — were kept constantly informed.
“We followed the president’s orders,” he said.
Like Trump a multimillionaire developer with a chain of high-end hotels, Sondland, who wore a $55,000 Breguet white gold watch to the hearing, fended off pressure from both Democrats and Republicans.
He had not implicated the president in earlier private testimony, when he answered scores of questions by saying he could “not remember.”
But subsequent testimony by other witnesses which had further implicated him in the Ukraine pressure scheme had jolted his memory, he said on Wednesday.
While he confirmed the linkage between the investigations and a White House meeting between Zelensky and Trump, he would not attest to allegations that Trump froze $391 million in aid as well to Ukraine to add pressure on Ukraine.
“I never heard from President Trump that aid was conditioned on an announcement” of the investigations, he said, contradicting testimony from two other diplomats.
In separate testimony, a Pentagon official appeared to undermine a key Republican defense in the impeachment battle, that Kiev did not even know until late August or even September about the July 18 aid freeze, rendering moot Democrats’ allegations that Trump had extorted Ukraine.
Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official in charge of Ukraine affairs, said Kiev voiced concern over a holdup in aid on July 25.
That was the same day that Trump told Zelensky in a phone call that he wanted a favor, asking for investigations into Biden specifically and the 2016 conspiracy theory.
“The Ukrainian embassy staff asked, ‘What is going on with Ukrainian security assistance?” she told the committee.
At the White House, Trump denied making the demand of Zelensky, citing Sondland’s own recall of their September 9 phone call on the Ukraine issue.
Reading from large-print notes, he said that he told Sonderland: “I want nothing. I want nothing. I want no quid pro quo. Tell Zelensky to do the right thing.”
“If this were a prizefight, they’d stop it!” he said of the inquiry.
Speaking at the Democrats’ debate, Biden dodged a question on the role of his son but said the testimony had shown that “Donald Trump doesn’t want me to be the nominee.”
And Bernie Sanders, another of the frontrunners for the nomination, said Trump had been shown to be “not only a pathological liar” but also “the most corrupt president in the modern history of America.”