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Indonesia police question suspected Islamic militants arrested in Papua

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian anti-terrorism officers are interrogating eight suspected Islamic militants arrested in the province of Papua on suspicion that they were planning an attack, a police spokesman said on Wednesday.

The arrest was a “pre-emptive strike” by the anti-terrorism squad earlier this month in several locations in Papua, National Police spokesman Asep Adi Saputra said in Jakarta.

The suspects have been transferred to Jakarta for questioning, he said. They were suspected of having links to the Islamic State-inspired Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which has carried out a series of attacks in Indonesia.Police said the arrests were made after officers had conduced surveillance of meetings between the suspects, as well as training and preparation for suspected attacks.

“Their target and their plan is currently being investigated,” Saputra said.

Separately, Papua police chief Paulus Waterpauw said on Tuesday the suspects were part of JAD networks on the Indonesian island of Sumatra that had moved to Jayapura, the provincial capital of Papua.

He said the arrest prompted police in Papau to heighten security in the area, especially before the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Indonesia is predominantly Muslim but some areas, particularly in the east, including Papua, have Christian majorities.

Papua has suffered a simmering conflict led by a mostly poorly armed and fractured separatist movement for decades, though not the type of sectarian or religious conflict in some other parts of Indonesia.

Two Indonesian soldiers were shot dead in Papua, ambushed by separatist rebels while transporting goods to a village in a remote area, a military spokesman said on Wednesday.

Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa and Angela Flassy in Jayapura; writing by Fransiska Nangoy; editing by Larry King; Editing by Ed Davies