Indonesian police said on Friday that they had arrested dozens of Islamic State-linked terror suspects, including some who planned to detonate bombs at political demonstrations when election results are announced this week.
Some 29 suspects were rounded up this month alone, with 60 in all detained since the start of the year in raids across the Southeast Asian nation, they said.
Eight other suspects had been killed in confrontations with authorities, police said, including the wife of a militant who blew up herself and a child following a dramatic standoff at their home in March.
Some arrested suspects were skilled bomb makers and had fought alongside the jihadist group in Syria, as well as members of local extremist network Jemaah Anshurat Daulah (JAD), police said.
JAD has pledged allegiance to IS and was blamed for a wave of suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia’s second biggest city Surabaya last year.
The world’s biggest Muslim majority nation has seen a string of attacks by Islamist militants since the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed more than 200 people, including scores of tourists.
National police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal on Friday described the latest arrests as a “preventative strike” before the official announcement of Indonesian elections, which were held on April 17.
There are concerns about street demonstrations after presidential challenger Prabowo Subianto, a retired military general, warned that protests could erupt over his claims of massive electoral fraud.
Subianto has vowed not to recognise this week’s results if they hand a re-election victory to president Joko Widodo, who has a lead of about 12 percentage points, according to unofficial polls.
Police said militants wanted to take advantage of any political unrest to spark chaos by using wi-fi to remotely detonate bomb-filled backpacks at crowded demonstrations.
“So we’re urging the public not to go out on the streets on May 22 because it could be dangerous as [the suspects] wanted to attack crowds and police officers,” he told reporters in the capital Jakarta.
Some 32,000 security personnel are expected to fan out across the capital this week, including in front of the General Elections Commission.
Subianto has attacked the Commission over allegations it was complicit in widespread electoral fraud.