Indonesia police kill 2 suspected Jemaah Islamiyah militants

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) – Indonesia’s counterterrorism police squad fatally shot two men suspected of ties to Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked group blamed for a string of past bombings, police said Thursday.

The two men, identified only by their initials, BA and ZK, were killed Wednesday in a shootout with police during a raid in Lampung, a province at the southern tip of Sumatra island, said Aswin Siregar, the spokesperson of the squad, known as Densus 88. An officer was seriously injured in the shootout and was hospitalized, he said.

Siregar said at a news conference that the raid was part of a broader nationwide crackdown on Jemaah Islamiyah following tips that it is recruiting and training new members. The shadowy network is blamed for attacks in the Philippines and Indonesia, including the 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. The U.S. has designated it a terrorist group.

Siregar said the two men were also accused of harboring Zulkarnaen, the former military commander of Jemaah Islamiyah who eluded capture for 18 years and was sentenced to 15 years in prison last year after being found guilty of hiding information about the 2002 Bali bombings from authorities.

He said the men also harbored another key Jemaah Islamiyah member, bomb maker Upik Lawanga, who eluded capture for 16 years and was sentenced to life in prison last year for making bombs used in a 2005 market attack in Poso that killed 22 people, mostly Christians.

Police also arrested four other members of Jemaah Islamiyah in a separate raid in Lampung on Tuesday and seized an M-16 rifle, several handmade guns and machetes, Siregar said.

“We are still searching for other suspected members,” he said.

An Indonesian court banned the militant network in 2008, and a sustained crackdown by security forces with support from the U.S. and Australia has weakened it.

Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in the past decade by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and security forces, inspired by Islamic State group tactics abroad.

Indonesian police have been criticized for shooting suspects rather than arresting them. Authorities say they are forced to defend themselves.

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