Two Indonesians have been detained over a plot to bomb the Burmese embassy in Jakarta, officials said on Friday, as radicals rallying in the city called for “jihad in Myanmar” to avenge Muslim deaths there.
The incidents highlight the growing anger in Muslim-majority Indonesia over a string of religious clashes in largely Buddhist Myanmar that have left many Muslims dead and tens of thousands displaced.
At least one person was killed when mosques and homes were attacked in central Myanmar this week, the latest anti-Muslim unrest to cast a shadow over political reforms in the formerly junta-run country.
Around 1,000 angry protesters from the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) converged on Myanmar’s embassy in Jakarta on Friday, brandishing banners that read: “We want to kill Burmese Buddhists” and “stop genocide in Myanmar.”
They torched the Burmese flag while chanting “burn down the embassy” and demanding to speak to officials inside, as hundreds of police in riot gear stood guard.
“Our Muslim brothers and sisters are being attacked in Myanmar — they are being raped and murdered,” said Bambang, a 37-year-old street vendor, who like many Indonesians goes by one name. “I want jihad in Myanmar. Anyone mistreating Muslims should be killed.”
The national head of the FPI, Habib Rizieq, shouted through a loudspeaker to whip up the crowd, mostly men wearing white Islamic skullcaps, as they marched on the embassy.
Earlier, officials said anti-terrorist police had detained two men suspected of planning a bomb attack on the Burmese embassy.
The suspects were arrested late on Thursday traveling by motorbike in a busy residential area in the south of the capital with five assembled pipe bombs, National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said in a statement.
The men, Sefa Riano, 28, and Achmad Taufiq, 21, planned to launch the attack on Friday, said a senior source at the country’s anti-terrorist police, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The head of Indonesia’s anti-terrorist agency, Ansyaad Mbai, told reporters that the target was the Burmese embassy.
“We are very certain that the attack would have been launched if we did not stop them,” he said.
A woman, believed to be the wife of one of the men, had also been detained to be questioned as a witness to the planned attack, Amar said.
A spokesman for the office of Burmese President Thein Sein said: “Myanmar government have coordinated diplomatically for the security of the Myanmar embassy, embassy staff and Myanmar citizens in Islamic countries including Indonesia.
“The Indonesian government is thanked for identifying and taking action to [stop] the [alleged] terrorists,” the spokesman added.
Anger in Indonesia about Myanmar has focused on the plight of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority regarded with hostility by many Burmese, who have increasingly been arriving in Indonesia as they flee violence at home.
Clashes in Rakhine State last year between Rohingya and Buddhists left about 200 dead and tens of thousands displaced. In March a flare-up in Buddhist-Muslim violence in central Myanmar left at least 43 people dead.
A man admitted in September last year to planning a suicide bomb attack against Buddhists in Jakarta in response to Myanmar’s treatment of Muslim groups, particularly the Rohingya.
Indonesia has been a vocal supporter of Muslim minorities in Myanmar and in January pledged US$1 million in aid to Rakhine.