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Indonesia nabs 59 militants over suspected attack plots

JAKARTA (AFP) Indonesian counter-terrorism police have arrested dozens of militants from groups linked to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State over suspected plots targeting next year’s presidential election, an official said Tuesday.

Police arrested the 59 suspected militants earlier in October and seized weapons, propaganda material, and bomb-making chemicals, a spokesman for Indonesia’s anti-terrorism unit Densus 88 said.

The forty suspects arrested from IS-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) were planning an attack on the presidential elections due to be held in February, spokesman Aswin Siregar said at a press conference in capital Jakarta on Tuesday.

“For them, the election is part of democracy, whereby democracy is immoral. Democracy is something that violates the law for them,” he said.

File photo shows members of The National Police’s Mobile Brigade sweeping the location suspected to be the hiding place of alleged terrorists in the hilly areas of Mamboro district, North Palu, Central Sulawesi on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. PHOTO: ANTARA VIA ANN/JAKARTAPOST

“They planned to carry out attacks on security forces who focus on securing the series of election activities.”

Another 19 suspects were linked to the Jemaah Islamiyah network, which has ties to Al-Qaeda, Siregar said.

“I think this served as a warning for them that Densus 88 would not tolerate the slightest threat to our domestic security, especially in the situation leading up to… the election,” he added.

Jemaah Islamiyah was behind the 2002 Bali bombings that ripped through a nightclub and bar on the Indonesian resort island, killing 202 people including 88 Australians.

The attacks were the deadliest in Indonesian history and led to a crackdown on militancy in the Muslim-majority country.

Some Islamist extremists have called for the implementation of sharia law in Indonesia, which officially recognises five religions in addition to Islam.

Members of JAD have staged other attacks, including a series of suicide bombings in May 2018 against several churches and a police headquarters in Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-biggest city.