Indonesian Bank Heists 'Funding Terrorists'

INDONESIA'S terrorists have turned to robbery to fund their attacks, police believe, following evidence linking a string of bank and office heists in Jakarta in the past week.

National police spokesman Anton Bachrul Alam said the modus operandi used in the robberies replicated the tactics used by terrorists in the past.

More importantly, he said a home-made bullet or ''projectile'' found in the body of a Bank Mandiri security guard killed last week matched the one found in a police officer shot in Malang, East Java, last month during the shoot-out that killed terrorist mastermind Azahari bin Husin.

Full ballistics tests would be used to confirm the bullet's identification, Mr Alam said in Jakarta yesterday.

Three banks and an electronics company have been robbed in and around Jakarta since last Thursday, with the combined hauls totalling 1028 million rupiah, or more than $142,000.

Four gang members arrested in West Jakarta more than two weeks ago are thought to have a connection with the spate of robberies, and police believe the interrogations of the suspects will establish links with terrorists.

The July arrest of militant Abdullah Sonata, who channelled funds into Indonesia for terror attacks, forced the terrorists to turn to crime to fund their attacks, Mr Alam said.

''After he was arrested their line of funds was cut -- they cannot get a supply,'' he said.

''Azahari has gone, but his partner Noordin Mohammed Top is still around, so we are limiting his activities.''

Sonata, who went on trial in South Jakarta's district court yesterday, has been linked to Top and other leading militants in the terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah and its splinter groups.

Police now believe militants starved of funds in Indonesia have begun to emulate the earlier exploits of Bali bomber Imam Samudra, who organised a gold shop robbery.

The JI militants have said robbing for jihad is permissible under Islam's sharia law.

Commissioner I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana, from the Jakarta police, refused to divulge any of the names of the four gang members arrested a fortnight ago in a sting operation in which one gang member was shot dead.

''They don't want to explain everything,'' he said, adding that the gang had robbed many times before. ''We have to find evidence we can put in front of them so they will tell.''

It is understood police tracked communications from the mobile phones of gang members following a bank robbery in the Java city of Yogyakarta last month.

The wave of robberies follows warnings from Indonesia's National Intelligence Agency chief Syamsir Siregar that terrorists were planning to kidnap prominent Indonesians and foreigners to raise funds.