Indonesian police shoot dead two terror suspects during raids

Indonesian police officers stand guard outside a mortuary where the two bodies of suspected islamic militants are stored at a police hospital in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on May 25, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA
Indonesian police officers stand guard outside a mortuary where the two bodies of suspected islamic militants are stored at a police hospital in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, on May 25, 2015. -- PHOTO: EPA

JAKARTA (AFP) - The Indonesian police have shot dead two suspected Islamic militants and arrested seven others in raids in an area known as a terror hotbed, an official said on Monday.

The force's elite anti-terror unit killed the two men during a firefight on Sunday in a village in Poso district on Sulawesi island, said national police spokesman Agus Rianto. "When we tried to arrest them, they resisted. There was a firefight and two from the group were killed," he said, adding that two policemen were injured.

Seven suspected militants have been arrested over several days, including five in the South Sulawesi capital of Makassar, Rianto said.

The spokesman said they were linked to the country's most-wanted Islamic extremist named Santoso. He leads the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen militant group, which hides out in the jungles on central Sulawesi.

The world's most populous Muslim-majority nation has struggled with Islamic extremism for more than a decade, facing a series of attacks on Western targets, although a crackdown has weakened the most dangerous networks.

The militants on Sulawesi are thought to be among the few that remain a real threat in Indonesia. They regularly launch attacks but these tend to target Indonesian security forces and be low-impact.

But fears are growing about the influence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, with some worried that Indonesians returning from fighting in Iraq or Syria could revive sophisticated militant networks.