Police have shot dead five men who were allegedly planning to rob money changers, jewellers and other targets on Indonesia's resort island of Bali in a suspected bid to fund terrorist attacks, officials said today.
Several semi-automatic guns, magazines of ammunition and masks also were recovered during separate raids on a bungalow and a boarding house late yesterday, said national police spokesman Saud Usman Nasution.
"We believe they were trying to get money to finance other (terrorist) activities," he said, adding that the alleged ringleader, Hilman Jayakusuma, had been on a most wanted list for more than two years.
The elite anti-terror unit opened fire after the suspects tried to escape with guns blazing, said Hariadi, a police spokesman on Bali. It was not immediately clear if any officers were wounded.
Mr Nasution said Jayakusuma, 32, was believed to be connected to a militant group uncovered in February 2010 following the discovery of a jihadi training camp in the westernmost province of Aceh.
According to convicted militants, the cell's goal had been to raise money through armed robberies and other illegal activities so they could launch a series of gun attacks on Western targets and carry out high-profile assassinations.
Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has been hit by a string of terrorist attacks in the last decade, including the 2002 suicide bombings on two crowded Bali nightclubs which killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.
There have been other deadly attacks since then targeting an embassy, hotels and restaurants, almost all blamed on the al Qaida-linked militant network, Jemaah Islamiyah, and a violent splinter group.
Just as the country was enjoying a lull in bombings - thanks in part to the arrest and convictions of hundreds of militants - authorities in discovered the jihadi training camp in Aceh.
A string of armed robberies have since been blamed on that group, most of them on the island of Sumatra.
Police got a tip that the men - including Jayakusuma, who was linked to a particularly violent robbery at a bank in Sumatra's capital, Medan - arrived in Bali late on Saturday, said local police spokesman Hariadi.
They slept in different places on the first night and regrouped yesterday morning to survey potential targets, he said.
In addition to weapons and masks, authorities found several sketches of their intended robbery targets.
Members of the elite Detachment 88 squad swooped last night to surround a bungalow used by the suspects near Sanur beach and a boarding house nine miles (15km) away, sparking the deadly shootouts.