An Indonesian anti-terror policeman gestures in this file photo. Police arrested 10 suspected terrorists in Papua on May 28. (Photo: Juni Kriswanto/AFP)
Indonesian police say they have arrested 10 suspected Islamic terrorists in Papua, foiling a plot to attack several churches in the country’s Christian-majority region.
The arrests were carried out on May 28 by local police and anti-terror squad Densus 88 across several districts in southern Papua, Merauke police chief Untung Sangaji told reporters on May 29.
"They intended to commit suicide bombings at several churches in Merauke, Jagebob, Kurik, Semangga and Tanah Miring," Sangaji said.
He said it was not clear when they intended to carry out the bombings but authorities had averted attacks that could have resulted in many casualties.
The police chief also did not say how many churches were targeted by the alleged plotters.
Papua police chief Mathius Fakhiri said the suspects were linked to the Islamic State-affiliated Jamaah Ansarut Daulah terrorist group, confirming a Densus 88 claim made last year that Islamic terrorists were in the region.
Islamic terrorists stoking tensions could easily make what is already a dangerous situation worse
Several of those arrested might have had links to the Makassar cathedral suicide bombing in South Sulawesi on March 28, Fakhiri said.
Sacred Heart Father Hendrikus Kariwop, vicar general of Merauke Archdiocese, confirmed the arrests but could not give further details except that “several churches in Merauke were among the targets.”
Stanislaus Riyanta, an intelligence analyst from the University of Indonesia, said the terrorists could have been looking to exploit the ongoing unrest in Papua.
"Islamic terrorists stoking tensions could easily make what is already a dangerous situation worse,” he said.