Indonesian police have arrested 24 suspected militants in a raid

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PALU, Indonesia – Indonesian police said Wednesday they have arrested 24 suspected militants accused of beheading in remote mountain forests and believed to have links to those who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

Twenty-two people were arrested over the weekend in Poso, the center of extremists in Central Sulawesi province, and two others were arrested in Borneo’s East Kalimantan province and in the satellite city of Bekasi in Jakarta, Central Sulawesi Police Chief Rudy Sufahariadi said.

Sufahriadi said the suspects were active supporters of the East Indonesia Mujahideen. The extremist network has claimed responsibility for the killings of police officers and minority Christians in central Sulawesi, beheaded some and pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group.

The group has been weakened over the past decade by repeated crackdowns on militants by joint military and police forces. More than 40 of its members conspired in the hilly jungles of Poso district and launched attacks.

A security operation in the area in 2016 killed the group’s leader, Abu Wardah Santoso. Since then, dozens of other leaders and members of the group have been killed or captured, including Ali Kalora, another leader who was killed by security forces last year. Police are pursuing two more members of the group who were on the run in the jungle.

The suspects arrested over the weekend were taking part in military-style jihadist training in central Sulawesi, Sufahriadi said. They provided weapons and food to the militants in the jungle and withheld information about them from the authorities.

Police seized a revolver, 10 airguns, an arrow and 26 knives during the operation and are questioning the suspects, Sufahriadi said.

Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, launched a crackdown on militants following a 2002 bombing of a resort island in Bali, killing 202 people, most of them Western and Asian tourists.

Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have in recent years been replaced by smaller, less lethal attacks targeting the government, mainly the police and counter-terrorism forces, and the militants are considered infidels, inspired by the Islamic State group’s tactics abroad.

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