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May 29, 2017

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Indonesia militant arrests show shift to violence

JAKARTA -- Indonesia's arrest of 11 suspected Islamic militants it said planned to attack the U.S. Embassy and a plaza near Australia's embassy is evidence that legal extremist groups are turning to violence, analysts said on Sunday.

The arrests could also step up pressure on the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, criticized for doing too little to curb religious intolerance in the country which has the world's largest Muslim population.

Anti-terrorist squad Detachment 88 squad seized bomb-making equipment and one bomb ready to be used by militant group Harakah Sunni for the Indonesian Society (HASMI), National Police spokesman Suhardi Alius said.

The arrests by the elite squad on the island of Java were the latest in a crackdown against militants during which dozens have been arrested and at least seven killed.

They come 10 years this month after a bomb attack on Bali killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.

"The first piece of evidence was found at a housing complex in Madiun (Java), a bomb ready to detonate, as well as raw materials for bomb making and instruction books on how to make bombs," Alius said.

He listed targets as the U.S. consulate in Surabaya, East Java, its embassy in Jakarta, Plaza 89 in Jakarta, which is in front of the Australian embassy, and the offices of prominent mining company Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold.

HASMI also planned to attack the Mobile Police Brigade in the central Java city of Srondol, he said, adding that the spiritual leader of the group had been arrested.

The State Department in Washington declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Defense Department said she was unaware of any request by the State Department to increase security at its embassy in Jakarta.

Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade declined to comment on security at its Jakarta embassy and a spokesperson said it had no information to suggest Australian citizens or interests were the group's intended target.

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