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Indonesia says breaks up plot to attack police over election period

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JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian anti-terrorism police have shot dead one Islamist militant and detained six suspected of planning attacks on officers with firearms or suicide bombings under the cover of rallies tied to recent elections, a police spokesman said.

The suspects were detained after weekend raids in Bekasi in West Java and one died after being shot when he threw a bomb at police, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said.

“They were planning to take police firearms and use them to commit terrorism, whether by becoming suicide bombers or performing other attacks that could be fatal for protesters,” Prasetyo said, adding that explosives had also been seized.

President Joko Widodo declared victory after the April 17 election based on unofficial results from private pollsters, but his challenger, former general Prabowo Subianto, has complained of widespread cheating and insists he won.

Prabowo has said that if his complaints were not addressed and an official count due by May 22 confirmed his loss, it could trigger “people power” style protests.

Prasetyo said the suspected militants were linked to the Islamic State-inspired Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) group, the largest Islamic State-linked group in Indonesia, which was legally disbanded last year for “conducting terrorism” and affiliating itself with the foreign militant group.

He said the suspects intended to use explosives and firearms to imitate the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which militants carried out a series of attacks and bombings across India’s financial capital.

Indonesian police have had considerable success in stopping major attacks since the deadly 2002 Bali bombings, though analysts warn against complacency.

“Indonesia has been lucky thus far that its terrorists generally have had too little experience to think big,” analyst Sidney Jones from the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said in a recent report.

“With a little imagination and better leadership, these pro-ISIS cells could do far greater damage,” said Jones.

In March, the wife and son of a suspected militant blew themselves up in their home on the island of Sumatra after hours of tense negotiations with counter-terrorism officers.

Indonesia also saw a series of gruesome attacks in the city of Surabaya a year ago, when whole families, including children as young as nine, strapped on explosive vests and blew themselves up at churches and police stations, killing more than 30 people.

(Reporting by Jessica Damiana and Kanupriya Kapoor; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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