On New Year’s Eve in Jakarta, as fireworks burst across the city’s skyline, different kinds of explosions were heard in Tangerang, a satellite city east of the capital. There, six suspected terrorists were killed in a nine-hour shootout by Indonesia’s police counter-terrorism squad, Detachment 88. Police said the victims belonged to an al Qaeda-linked cell formerly run by Abu Roban, who was knocked off the top of the police’s most-wanted list when he was killed in a raid last May.

Documents collected as evidence during the raid suggested that the group had been planning suicide attacks against the US embassy, hotels 'harbouring the CIA', police stations, a church, and Buddhist temples. One of the suspects had travel documents for Syria, where he planned to carry out a suicide bombing, police said. No link was found between the cell and a trespasser who scaled the walls of the Australian embassy in Jakarta a few days earlier.

Abu Roban’s group had also reportedly long held plans to disrupt the upcoming presidential election by staging attacks. Terrorism is a threat that authorities will remain vigilant about in the lead-up to the election, said National Counterterrorism Agency head Ansya'ad Mbai. 'Democracy is a Western scenario that aims to destroy Islam, that is their (the terrorists’) mindset,' he commented, as reported by Republika.co.id.

Meanwhile, former Navy Chief Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno told another online news portal that terrorism would not be a threat to the election if the government fulfilled the people’s expectations for a free and fair ballot. 'The government must conduct the election properly in accordance with regulations, it must no longer disappoint the people', he told Sindonews.com, adding that terrorism is a tool used by the people to express their discontent with the state of governance.

Detachment 88, which has received funding and training support from Australia, has been accused of human rights abuses in the past. Indonesia's National Commission on Human Rights has launched an investigation into the latest killings. Commission chief Siti Noor Laila said immediately after the raid that the killings were 'understandable' as the suspects resisted arrest.

The non-government Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) has already released the results of its investigation, saying that at least one of the shooting victims did not resist arrest. Both Australia and Indonesia’s governments are likely to face more questions over the accountability of the squad and its effectiveness in defusing terrorist threats.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.