DENPASAR, Indonesia (Reuters) - Indonesian police shot dead five suspected militants planning attacks on the resort island of Bali, including an assault on a night club popular with foreign tourists, the national counter-terrorism agency and police said on Monday.
The five men, who were shot dead in overnight raids on the island, were linked to the banned Jemaah Islamiah group, which carried out nightclub bombings on Bali in 2002 that killed 202 people, most of them Australian tourists, officials said.
The 2002 attacks were a watershed for Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, forcing the secular state to confront the presence of violent militants on its soil. Bali, which is majority Hindu, is a global tourist destination.
The five arrived on Bali on March 17 and surveyed La Vida Loca nightclub in the Seminyak beach resort, about 2.5 miles (4 km) northwest of Kuta where the 2002 attack took place.
“Last night we have paralysed five criminal perpetrators who were planning to commit terrorist acts ... All the suspects died during the raids because they defied or shot back with pistols at the police officers,” national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told Reuters.
“The perpetrators have surveyed several places and among them are a gold shop in Jimbaran, a money changer and cafe La Vida Loca,” he said.
It was not clear how advanced the preparations for attacks were. Authorities declined to give more details of the threat or say when the attacks were scheduled.
National police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution said some members of the group were still at large.
“They have made drawings of these locations as their targets,” he told a news conference.
Three people were killed in the beach resort area of Sanur and two in the island’s capital, Denpasar, and police said they recovered two rifles, two ammunition magazines, 48 bullets and a balaclava.
In Sanur, witnesses saw pools of blood outside a security guard post and police forensic officers at work behind a police line.
Police earlier said the suspects planned armed robberies to raise funds and they linked the five to a group that had conducted bank robberies in the city of Medan on Sumatra island.
“This is an Islamic militant group, a splinter group of Jemaah Islamiah who established a training camp in Aceh,” said Nasution, referring to a province on the far north of Sumatra.
Australian media quoted another senior police officer as saying it was possible the group had been planning to carry out attacks on Thursday, the eve of Nyepi, or the annual Day of Silence marking Bali’s Hindu New Year.
Balinese hold parades on the eve of Nyepi, which draw large numbers of tourists, the Australian Associated Press said.
The killings follow the beginning of a trial last month of an Islamist militant accused of making the bombs used in the 2002 Bali nightclubs attack.
Umar Patek, who was captured in the same Pakistan town where U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, is also accused of mixing chemicals for 13 bombs that detonated in five churches in Jakarta on Christmas Eve, 2000, killing about 15 people.
Security officials say he belonged to Jemaah Islamiah.
Additional reporting by Olivia Rondonuwu, Michael Taylor and Rieka Rahadiana in JAKARTA; Writing by Matthew Bigg; Editing by Robeert Birsel