Largely non-Muslim Bali is seen as a potential terror target. Source: Pixabay
But police later said the fertiliser was related to “money laundering”, not terror.
The ship was smuggling ammonium nitrate wrapped in 1,500 sacks. The director of the national police’s special economic crimes department Brigadier General Agung Setya said evidence suggested the involvement of an international syndicate implicated in money laundering.
“The case is still being investigated. We cooperate with the Intelligence Agency and Customs and Excise Agency,” he told the media.
He added that the fertiliser was in a form that could be used in illegal dynamite fishing.
Last week, the authorities seized 1.7 tonnes of ammonium nitrate hidden in 61 sacks from a warehouse in Southeast Sulawesi province, arresting its suspected owner.
Police on Sumatra also detained a suspected Isis-linked militant they accused of preparing an attack on Bali, and recovered a container holding around 150 grams of explosive.
In Bali, customs and police officers were still interrogating the crew and investigating potential links to militant groups as Indonesia remains on high alert for terror attacks.
Bali police spokesperson Hendra Suhartiyono said the authorities were studying if the ship was on its way to the sparsely populated island of Sulawesi, which is known for militant violence.
“We are not closed to the possibility that this chemical material…could also be for the benefit of terrorist groups in Sulawesi to make low-impact and high-impact bombs,” he said.
Indonesia’s most-wanted militant, Santoso, was reportedly killed by security forces on Sulawesi earlier this year.
Santoso, who had proclaimed an allegiance to so-called Islamic State, had an extremist network in the Poso region, although it has apparently been weakened by security operations.
“At the moment the crew are being intensively examined on explosive material ammonium nitrate that was carried, shipped from Malaysia,” Bali customs spokesman Thomas Aquino said.
“They confessed that the boat was rented to be shipped to Sulawesi. They thought the material in the sacks was fertiliser. We will detain the ship crew to be processed legally.”
Indonesia saw its first militant strike in several years in January with a bungled gun-and-bomb operation.
Bali was put on a security alert in August after reports of a suspected militant plot on the tourist island.
The 2002 nightclub bombing, which left 202 dead, mostly Australians, was blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asia affiliate.