Police in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province shot and killed two suspected members of a militant group linked to Islamic State (IS) on Wednesday, a spokesman said.
Earlier in the day, the suspected members of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) had shot and wounded a police officer outside a bank in the town of Poso, provincial police spokesman Didik Supranoto said.
Footage from a surveillance camera seen by BenarNews showed one of the men pointing a gun at the officer as he parked his motorcycle in front of the bank.
The officer put up a fight, but one of the attackers shot him in the chest, while the other tried to seize his weapon.
Police chased the attackers who escaped on a motorbike and killed them in an ensuing gun battle, Didik said.
“Our officers were forced to take firm action because they put up a fight,” Didik told BenarNews.
Didik said the two men had been on the list of people wanted for involvement with MIT, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to IS.
The spokesman said police found homemade bombs wrapped around the bodies of the two suspects, whom he identified as Ali (alias Darwin Gobel) and Muis Fahron (alias Abdullah), as well as a handgun, a mobile phone and a bullet. He did not elaborate on the bombs.
Didik said the men joined MIT in 2018. Previously, police said that group’s membership had been reduced to seven people, but new recruits raised its number to 16, including its leader Ali Karola.
Poso police chief Adjunct Senior Commissioner Darno said officers raided a nearby house believed to be the suspects’ hideout and found bullets, homemade bombs and a motorbike.
Central Sulawesi police chief Inspector Gen. Syafril Nursal told reporters in Poso that the remains of the suspects would be brought to a police hospital in Palu, the provincial capital, for formal identification.
Didik said the wounded officer was in stable condition.
The director of the Institute for Human Rights Studies and Development in Central Sulawesi, Mohammad Affandi, criticized the police for using lethal force.
“The two MIT members should have been captured alive so the motive for the attack and their network could be revealed,” Affandi told BenarNews.
The government launched Operation Tinombala, a joint military-police task force, in January 2016 with a mission to capture or kill MIT militants.
Santoso, who led MIT before being killed by security forces in 2016, was the first Indonesian militant to publicly pledge allegiance to IS.
The militant leader had operated out of the mountains in Poso where he conducted para-military training for militants. The training sessions drew recruits from other parts of Indonesia, as well as from abroad, including at least six Uyghurs, Indonesian authorities said.
The world’s largest Muslim-majority country, Indonesia has been hit by a string of terrorist attacks in the past two decades, with more recent strikes being blamed on militants affiliated with IS.