Police have rounded up 48 students and their instructor in an overnight raid on an Islamic boarding school in Nganjuk, East Java, after complaints from neighbours worried about what looked like combat training in the compound at night.
Their suspicions proved right. Police found air guns, sharp weapons like bamboo spears and arrows, and radical books and VCDs amid religious texts at the Darul Akhfiya school.
"We strongly suspect their kind of physical training could lead to acts of terror," national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said yesterday. "We are also exploring the possibility that they could be linked to other groups."
The discovery comes in the wake of several high-profile terror arrests in recent months. But the latest incident, strikingly, reflects a vigilant neighbourhood opposed to terrorism. It comes as safe havens for militants dwindle.
Security analyst Noor Huda Ismail said: "This shows that communities can curb terrorism. These are everyday people standing up against violence."
He believes the recent wave of arrests has also created a momentum the authorities can ride on.
The school's instructor, Nasiruddin Ahmad, alias Landung Tri Bawono, is 34 and hails from Solo. He told the Antara news agency that the school did not teach terrorism but religious knowledge and self-defence.
But Huda notes that Nasiruddin graduated from the hardline Darusy Syahadah school in Boyolali, Central Java. Several of its graduates have been involved in terrorism and assisted Jemaah Islamiah members Azahari Husin and Noordin Top.
The Nganjuk group is reportedly from Gabungan Masyarakat Islam (Gamis) - combined Muslim community - a relatively unknown group. Students came from all over, including Ambon and Central Sulawesi, the province where a terrorist training camp was uncovered this month.
The school in Nganjuk did not have a permit to operate from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.
Neighbourhood chief Budiarso told Antara that police had been monitoring the compound - which comprises a 20m by 20m house and an equally large yard - for three months. He said students would come in groups for up to a month at a time, before being replaced by another batch.
The former primary school principal said: "We fear they could be part of a terror network, and we don't want such activity in our area."
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