Indonesian police have arrested seven militants and killed another who were allegedly involved in a plot to launch terror attacks, targeting mass gatherings held in connection with last month's elections, a police spokesman said Monday.
National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told a press conference that the arrests took place over the weekend in Bekasi, near Jakarta, and in Bitung in North Sulawesi Province.
Five militants were nabbed in Bekasi, while another was shot dead there as he was about to explode a bomb, Dedi said, adding that two others were arrested in Bitung as they were on the way to hook up with other militants elsewhere on Sulawesi island.
All eight are believed to be members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah, or JAD, a militant network linked to Islamic State.
Dedi said the militants intended to target mass gatherings, especially the protest rallies that have been taking place almost daily in Jakarta relating to the presidential and legislative elections that took place on April 17.
Many such rallies are organized by supporters of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, who appears set to lose the election, with participants alleging irregularities in vote counting that will last until May 22.
"This group wanted to use the election momentum, particularly in Jakarta, and planned to launch attacks during protest rallies that lead to anarchic actions," Dedi said. "They were planning suicide bombings and other bomb attacks to trigger other terrorist groups to do the same."
Dedi said those arrested over the weekend are members of JAD's branch in Lampung Province on Sumatra Island, including the branch's leader Abu Faizah.
He called that branch, set up in 2014, "well-structured, more radical and more militant" than other branches.
Dedi said Abu Faizah had been involved in bombings in Central Jakarta in January 2016 in which eight people died, including four attackers, and a riot by Islamist detainees in Depok in West Java Province in May last year that claimed the lives of five policemen and an inmate.
He and another militant detained over the weekend had already assembled some triacetone triperoxide bombs, made from commonly available household ingredients, of the sort that has been used in past terror attacks in the country.
Indonesia disbanded JAD last year, a year after the U.S. State Department declared it a terrorist organization.
Aman Abdurrahman, who is now in prison, set up JAD in 2005 to accommodate Islamic State supporters in the country, spread its teachings and launch jihad, or holy war.
He was sentenced to death last year for inspiring the bomb attacks in Central Jakarta in January 2016 as well as four other attacks in the country.