U.S.-trained anti-terror unit ready to go

JAKARTA, Indonesia, AP

A new U.S.-trained anti-terror squad was inaugurated on Thursday, staging a demonstration that included a mock car bomb — a device used in several bloody attacks in the world’s largest Muslim nation.

“We must fight terrorism to the roots, not just the operatives in the field but also the brains behind the networks,” Jakarta police chief Maj. Gen. Firman Gani said at the inauguration ceremony. “There is a dark group that is organizing and coordinating terrorist bombs across the country.”

Members of the anti-terror unit, called “Detachment 88,” have already conducted several arrests in Indonesia since graduating from an academy on the southern outskirts of Jakarta. The academy is funded by Washington and is staffed by Americans. It teaches hostage rescue, crime scene investigation and bomb disposal.

Thursday’s ceremony marked the inauguration of 75 officers belonging to the Jakarta unit of the force. After the speeches, a mock car bomb exploded in flames and officers put out the fire. They also disposed of a mock pipe bomb and staged a simulated hostage release.

A car bomb was used in the October 2002 attacks on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. A suicide bomber blew up a car outside the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta last year that killed 12.

Police have arrested scores of militants belonging to the al-Qaida-linked regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah over both attacks, but warn that several key operatives are still on the loose.