JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Two suspected militants and a member of an elite Indonesian anti-terrorism squad died in a shootout as police attempted to capture a group responsible for the death of a policeman a day earlier, authorities said Saturday. Another suspect was injured and arrested, they said.
Police received a tip that members of a terror group believed to be responsible for the killing of the police officer were planning more attacks on Indonesia's main island of Java, national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said.
He said members of the anti-terrorism squad tried to capture the three suspects late Friday at a food stall in Central Java's Solo town, the hometown of radical Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, but shot them when they resisted arrest, killing two and wounding another, who was then arrested. One of the suspects fatally shot a member of the anti-terrorism squad, Amar said.
"There are strong indications that they were involved in three terrorist attacks recently against security forces," Amar said, adding that police were investigating whether the suspects were connected to Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid, an organization founded by Bashir and designated a terrorist group by the U.S. in February.
Recent terror attacks in the world's most populous Muslim nation have been by individuals or small groups and have targeted local "infidels" instead of Westerners, with less deadly results.
The change signals Indonesia's success in suppressing its main underground terror networks, but also shows how radical groups still operating in the open remain potent breeding grounds where angry young men can turn into attackers.
On Thursday, two men on a motorbike stormed a police post in Solo, fatally shot an officer and fled, Amar said. Hours earlier, an anti-terrorism unit had raided a house in Bandung in West Java province and arrested computer expert Maman Kurniawan, a suspected militant.
Ansyaad Mbai, the head of Indonesia's anti-terror agency, said Kurniawan is a key member of a new terror cell in North Sumatra's Medan city and has helped the group hack into several websites to raise nearly $700,000 to finance their activities.
During Thursday's raid, police seized several computers and bank transfer documents that link the Medan group with other terror cells in Solo and Poso on Sulawesi island, Amar said. Police also seized a Beretta pistol and ammunition.
Mbai said one of the suspects who died Friday was identified as Farhan, who studied in an Islamic school founded by Bashir, went to the Philippines and allegedly joined forces with the local extremist group Abu Sayyaf.
"He was dangerous and well-trained in the use of arms ... and the gun found with him was apparently stolen," Mbai said, adding that writing on the gun said property of the Philippines National Police.
Two weeks ago, two gunmen fired at a police post in Solo, injuring two officers. A day later, an assailant threw a grenade at another post, wounding two more officers.
Indonesia, a secular nation of 237 million, was thrust onto the front lines in the battle against terrorism when the al-Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah attacked two crowded nightclubs on Bali island in 2002, killing 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.
Though the group carried out several other deadly attacks in the years that followed, it has since been largely dismantled, replaced by several smaller, less organized cells, officials say.