Six arrested in connection with a thwarted plan to kill top security officials
by Mathias Hariyadi

The group of four hit men and two organisers sought to undermine President Widodo’s leadership ahead of the riots of 21 and 22 May. Two ministers, the intelligence chief, a presidential advisor and an important pollster were the targets.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian police arrested six people in connection with a plan to undermine President Joko Widodo’s leadership and spread fear across the country via the murder of four top security officials and an important pollster ahead of last week’s violent protests in Jakarta.

Muhammad Iqbal, spokesman for the National Police (POLRI), said the day before yesterday that five men and a woman are being held on charges of accepting money to kill and supply weapons.

The group consisted of four hit men and two people involved in the logistics of the operation. The principal was identified only by initials: HS. The head of the commando, a man known by the initials HK, received a payment of 150 million rupees (US$ 10,400) to carry out the killings with three accomplices who would have been paid 25 million (US$ 1,730) each.

National Police Chief General Tito Karnavian yesterday reported that the targets of the attacks were the former Commander of the Indonesian Armed Forces, currently Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs General Wiranto; Indonesian State Intelligence Agency (Badan Intelijen Negara, BIN) Chief Budi Gunawan; Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs and former head of the anti-terrorist unit General Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan; and a member of the President's Special Security and Intelligence Council and founder of Densus 88, the police counter-terrorism team, Gories Mere.

Last week, mass protests against the re-election of President Widodo shook Jakarta. The latter won last April's presidential election against his rival Prabowo Subianto with 55.5 per cent of the vote. Eight people died under unclear circumstances in the riots on 21 and 22 May.

The police have reported that the Islamic State (IS) group infiltrated the protests. Security forces dismissed as fake news allegations that agents or soldiers were involved in the death of protesters.

Subianto has appealed to the Constitutional Court, claiming  that the election was rigged and arguing that Widodo should have been disqualified. Independent observers say that the vote was free and fair.

Indonesian police say the victims of the protests were part of a plan orchestrated by "big players" to sow chaos in the capital. The primary objective was to force Widodo to resign to avoid a civil war. This would have paved the way for the intervention of the Armed Forces, who would then have installed Subianto as "saviour of the country".

The authorities have detained some "loyalists" of the defeated candidate, including General Kivlan Zen, a former senior army officer like Subianto. Both have been accused of human rights violations during their military careers.

According to investigators, last week's protests are a "copy-paste" of the May 1998 demonstrations, which led to the downfall of then President Suharto.