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Indonesian police shoot dead 8 terrorism suspects

Fatalities, string of arrests shows security forces are baring their teeth since gaining new powers, observers say

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Indonesian police shoot dead 8 terrorism suspects

An anti-terror policeman gestures amid tight security at a hospital morgue, where the bodies of the individuals involved in the Surabaya suicide bombings were being kept, in Surabaya, East Java province in this May 18 file photo. Indonesian police recently killed 8 suspected terrorists in two major incidents on July 14 and 15 (Photo by Juni Kriswanto/AFP)

Indonesian police killed eight alleged terrorists and arrested over a dozen more in Java during the last few days, underscoring the added bite authorities now have since a new anti-terrorism law was passed, observers and church people said.

On July 14, three terrorists were shot in Kaliurang in Yogyakarta, while resisting an attempted arrest in which two policemen were wounded, according to a police spokesman.

The following day, police shot dead another five suspects in Cianjur and Subang districts and arrested 20 people.

West Java police chief, Inspector General Police Agung Budi Maryoto, told reporters that those killed and arrested had links to church and police station attacks in Surabaya on May 13 and violence at a detention facility in Depok on the outskirts of the capital Jakarta on May 9.

Indonesia's anti-terror squad, Densus 88, says it has arrested 197 suspected terrorists and killed 20 others since the Surabaya attacks that killed 26 people, including 13 attackers. 

Al Chaidar, a terrorism expert from Malikussaleh University in Aceh, said those shot and arrested in recent days were likely members of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an outfit that has pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State group.

He also said the recent anti-terrorism efforts demonstrated police determination to prevent revenge attacks after the group's leader Aman Abdurahman was sentenced to death on June 22.

"The likelihood of a revenge attack is very real as the sentence would have angered group members of which there are many," Al Chaidar told ucanews.com.

According to Al Chaidar there are terror cells located in West, Central, and East Java.

Petrus Selestinus, a Catholic lawyer and activist, said the latest shootings and arrests showed renewed police vigor in fighting terrorism after parliament passed a new anti-terrorism law on May 25, removing restrictions and giving security forces greater powers to go after terror suspects.

"Since the law was introduced police and military have intensified their efforts in trying to suppress terrorism," he said.

"Now Densus 88 men can arrest or shoot dead terrorists without fearing they have violated the law themselves," he added.

President Joko Widodo said security forces would not rest in their fight to overcome terrorism, and would do so through soft and hard approaches.

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