JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Indonesian police said Monday they have foiled a plot to kill government officials, law enforcement officers and others by suspected Muslim militants arrested over the weekend.
Security was raised at airports, the presidential palace, foreign embassies and shopping malls, and the government said it will deploy more than 150,000 personnel to safeguard public places and churches across the country.
Information from the U.S., Australia and Singapore helped Indonesian police discover that the attacks were planned for the year-end holiday season, national police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti said.
“This is the result of sharing intelligence to combat international evil,” Haiti said. “There is a possibility of other groups, and we will continue to pursue them.”
Anti-terror police arrested nine men over the weekend in five cities on Indonesia’s main island of Java.
Those arrested included Zaenal, who is thought to have planned to be a suicide bomber in one of the attacks, and Asep Urip, a teacher at an Islamic boarding school who allegedly received funds from Indonesian militants who are joining the Islamic State group in Syria, national police spokesman Maj. Gen. Anton Charlian said at a separate news conference.
Their interrogation led police to arrest several other suspects who had been sought since a raid on their bomb-making factory in Klaten town last year, he said.
They have expertise in shooting and bomb-making because of their membership in Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked Southeast Asian group blamed for the deadly 2002 nightclub bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, Charlian said.
“This group has collaborated with those who returned from war in Syria,” he said. “They want to perform a ‘concert’ to attract international news coverage of their existence here.”
He cited a document seized from the group that described the planned attacks as a “concert.”
Charlian said police have identified about 240 people who have returned home out of at least 800 Indonesians who have traveled to the Middle East to join IS.
“They are under our close observation. … If any of them attempt terrorist activities, we can immediately arrest them,” Charlian said.
Haiti said intelligence gleaned from the suspects and evidence seized from their hideouts revealed an elaborate plot to kill police, including anti-terror squad leaders, government officials, Shiite followers and others considered to be enemies of their faith.
The announcements were made after a meeting Monday of security-related Australian and Indonesian Cabinet ministers.
Australian Attorney General George Brandis said both nations face a problem of IS group-inspired terrorism.
“It is a problem that both of our countries are very vulnerable to and therefore as friends and neighbors, it is important that we cooperate with one another in sharing intelligence,” he said.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has suffered a spate of deadly attacks by the Jemaah Islamiyah network in the past. But strikes in recent years have been smaller and less deadly and have targeted government authorities, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces.