Indonesian Terror Suspects Planned Bombings, Assassinations

Nine terror suspects arrested with a large cache of explosives had planned bomb attacks in shopping malls and churches and assassinations of Indonesia's top politicians, police said Saturday.

One of the suspects — named Ihwanudin, who authorities say killed himself while in police custody — stashed weapons at his rented home, neighbors said.

His house was about 200 yards away from President Megawati Sukarnoputri's private residence, raising suspicions that she was one of the targets.

On Friday, police announced the arrests of three men in Jakarta (search) and four in Semarang (search) in Central Java, between July 4 and July 11. Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Edward Aritonang confirmed Saturday that another two had been arrested, one in Jakarta and another in Magelang, Central Java.

Police also raided a bomb-making factory in Semarang and seized four boxes of TNT, 25 sacks of potassium chlorate — the chemical used in the Bali blasts — and 1,200 detonators.

"These are powerful stuff," Aritonang said. "We think they were targeting places of worships and shopping malls. If the chemicals were used all at once, they could be planning bombings more devastating than the Bali attacks."

Police also found three books containing schedules of church services in the capital Jakarta, Aritonang said, raising fears that the suspects were planning attacks on the country's Christian minority.

The suspects were also planning to assassinate "top public figures" he said, but refused to elaborate.

During the raid, police confiscated several books, including one that listed the names of members of the People's Consultative Assembly, Indonesia's highest legislative body.

The arrests were a further sign that Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, is cracking down on Islamic militancy after last year's Oct. 12 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people. Jakarta had been accused of failing to act on warnings that terrorists were targeting the nation.

There had been concerns that Indonesia might scale down its investigations into Islamic militancy after winning widespread praise for its prompt arrests of 35 people accused of carrying out the Bali bombings.

The recently arrested suspects are believed to be members of Jemaah Islamiyah (search), the Al Qaeda linked Southeast Asian terror group accused in the Bali blasts. Jemaah Islamiyah allegedly wants to set up a regional Islamic state.

Police allege that during questioning, Ihwanudin, who was handcuffed, managed to grab an M-16 rifle and killed himself. News reports on Saturday raised questions about Ihwanudin's treatment by police, who human rights activists have long accused of brutality and torture.