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IS-linked group had role in election-related protest rallies: Indonesian police

Riot police officers take defensive position during clashes with supporters of Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto in Jakarta, Indonesia, on May 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

JAKARTA (Kyodo) -- Indonesian police said Thursday that members of an Islamic State-affiliated group had infiltrated protests that broke out in Jakarta on Wednesday and turned violent, following the announcement of the final results of last month's presidential election.

National Police Spokesman Muhammad Iqbal told a press conference that among the 442 detained protesters, two are members of the radical Islamic Reformists' Movement, or GARIS, which has in the past sent its members to fight for IS in Syria.

"It is important then to announce to the public that it is fixed that a group, which is affiliated with IS, has infiltrated into the protests," Iqbal said.

"The two detainees confessed that they did plan to do a 'jihad' (holy war) during the chaos on May 21 and 22. We found some strong evidence," he said, adding that details would be announced later as the hunt for the group's leaders continues.

Established in 1998 as a civil society group, GARIS over the years changed its orientation, publicly pledging its loyalty to Islamic State in 2014 and later sending almost 200 Indonesians to Syria.

Jailed Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, spiritual leader of al-Qaida's Southeast Asia splinter group Jemaah Islamiyah, was chief advisor for the group, Iqbal said.

The police spokesman said seven deaths were reported amid the violent protests in different parts of Jakarta from Tuesday until early Thursday by supporters of unsuccessful presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto, while nine security personnel were injured.

The election commission on Tuesday declared incumbent President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo the winner of the April 17 election, defeating Prabowo by a double-digit margin.

Refusing to accept the official vote count, Prabowo has alleged electoral fraud and vowed to challenge it before either the Constitutional Court or Bawaslu, the election monitoring body.

Security has been tightened in the capital since Monday, with soldiers and police officers seen on the streets and at many buildings.

Police fear that IS-affiliated militants could use rallies or mass gatherings to attack crowds containing protesters, journalists and security personnel.

So far this month, 29 militants have been arrested on suspicion of planning such attacks, targeting demonstrations around the announcement of the election results.

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