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Indonesia says militant's arrest reveals plots, new IS links

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JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesian police said on Tuesday a suspected militant arrested last week was plotting Independence Day bomb attacks and they suspect he was part of a network behind violence in the Philippines that also has ties to Islamic State in Afghanistan.

Officers from Indonesia’s anti-terrorism unit, Densus 88, arrested the suspect in the province of West Sumatra last Thursday, national police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told a news conference.

The suspect, identified as Novendri, was a member of the Islamic State-inspired Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) group, which was banned in Indonesia last year for “conducting terrorism” and being affiliated with foreign militants.

Authorities believe Novendri was planning bomb attacks including two police headquarters in the city of Padang in West Sumatra province and other police posts on Independence Day on Aug. 17, Prasetyo said.

Police displayed a chart at the news conference, setting out the suspected foreign links of Indonesian militants including a leader, identified as Saefulah, who is believed to be based in an area of Afghanistan where Islamic State militants operate.

According to Prasetyo, some Indonesian militants had tried to reach Afghanistan after the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Another Indonesian on the chart, who was arrested in the city of Bekasi in West Java, was suspected of planning a suicide attacks in the capital, Jakarta, during protests in May over a disputed election, said Prasetyo.

Police also think the network had links to militants in the Philippines and helped a husband and wife travel there from Indonesia’s Sulawesi island.

Authorities believe the couple carried out a suicide attack on a cathedral on Jolo island in the southern Philippines in February in which 22 people were killed.

Prasetyo said Indonesian anti-terrorism officers were working with police from various countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, Afghanistan, the United States and Australia in their investigation.

Indonesia, which is the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, is grappling with a resurgence in militancy.

The government scrambled to tighten its anti-terrorism laws after a series of suicide bombings linked to JAD cells killed more than 30 people in the city of Surabaya last year.

Hundreds of people have been detained under the new laws since the beginning of 2019.

(Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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