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JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian police arrested nine suspected militants following a tipoff about a possible attack during the announcement of presidential election results next week, police said Thursday.
The elite counterterrorism squad arrested suspected militant instructor Joko Supriono in the East Java town of Madiun on Tuesday, and eight others were apprehended separately in Central Java province, National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said.
He said seven of the suspects had allegedly joined an extremist group in Syria before returning this year, and Supriono was believed to be linked to Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, a local militant network affiliated with the Islamic State group.
The men were being transported to the capital, Jakarta, for further investigation, Prasetyo said.
Also known as JAD, the network of almost two dozen extremist organizations has been implicated in numerous attacks in Indonesia in the past two years and was designated a terror organization by the U.S. in 2017.
Last week, the counterterrorism squad foiled an alleged plot by members of JAD to set off bombs during expected street protests after the official vote count for the presidential election is announced by the electoral commission by May 22, police said.
They said they uncovered the plot after arresting a group member identified only as Rafli at a cellular shop in Jakarta's satellite city of Bekasi and finding two bombs and several detonators that could be set off using Wi-Fi signals from a cellphone or radio transmitter.
Prasetyo said police were tipped off about Rafli's whereabouts while interrogating four suspected militants who were arrested in Bekasi during several police raids on JAD members. Another suspect was shot to death while trying to detonate a bomb during a raid.
Indonesian militants have been inspired by IS attacks abroad despite a sustained crackdown that obliterated an al-Qaida-affiliated network that was responsible for bombings in Bali in 2002 and other attacks.
In May last year, two families carried out suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia's second-largest city, Surabaya, killing a dozen people and two young girls whose parents had involved them in one of the attacks. Police said the father was the head of a local Jemaah Anshorut Daulah cell.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, is an outpost of democracy in a Southeast Asian neighborhood of authoritarian governments and is forecast to be among the world's biggest economies by 2030. The country held the biggest single-day election on April 17 to elect a president and national and regional parliaments.
Vote counts from five independent survey groups showed incumbent President Joko Widodo with a clear lead over Prabowo Subianto, a general during the era of the Suharto military dictatorship who warned Indonesia would fall apart without his strongman leadership.
Subianto's insistence that he was on course for victory, and his allegations of fraud, have led to speculation in some quarters that he might be trying to himself fix the results or would refuse to concede. That would put pressure on the country's democratic institutions and could possibly lead to violence.
His supporters recently held street rallies to call for fairness and vigilance in the vote counting as the government warned that efforts to cast doubt on the outcome could amount to treason.
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