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Indonesian police kill 3 suspected militants

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NINIEK KARMINI | March 15, 2013 05:00 AM EST | AP

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesian police have shot and killed three suspected militants and arrested four others near the country's capital, seizing more than a dozen homemade bombs and a cache of other weapons from a group suspected of planning terrorism acts, police said Friday.

Two suspects resisted when police tried to arrest them late Thursday in western Jakarta for their alleged connection to a jewelry shop robbery. Authorities fatally shot one of the men, said National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar.

He said another suspect was interrogated and revealed that the robberies were being used to fund terrorism activities. His information led police to five other members of the group early Friday in Bekasi, on the outskirts of Jakarta.

Two of those men were killed after drawing weapons on police, and three others were arrested, Amar said.

Police "had to shoot ... otherwise they were shot," Chief of National Police Detective Lt. Gen. Sutarman, who like many Indonesians uses a single name, told TVOne in an interview from the scene.

Police seized more than 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of gold jewelry, five homemade guns and 14 pipe bombs, and are investigating possible terrorism links.

Amar said the men were part of a cell allegedly involved in recent attacks on police and bank robberies in Medan in North Sumatra province. On Sunday, four gunmen robbed a gold shop in western Jakarta and grabbed 1.5 kilograms (3.3 pounds) of jewelry and $51,550 in cash.

Indonesia has been battling terrorists since the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. In recent years, Indonesian police have been criticized for shooting terrorists, rather than trying to arrest them.

Television footage displayed guns and a wide range of gold jewelry such as rings, bracelets and necklaces, along with bomb squads detonating the explosives in a safe area.

"From evidence we have seized, it could be concluded that they have a link with terrorism," Sutarman said.

However, he could not disclose the targets, pending police investigation.

He identified one of the dead suspects as Makmur, whom he said was involved in a violent 2010 bank robbery in Medan, North Sumatra's capital.

Robberies appear to be a growing way for extremist groups in Indonesia to raise funds to finance their terrorist activities. They justify their actions by claiming it is allowed as part of the struggle to establish an Islamic state through seizing wealth owned by infidels.

In January, police in Central Sulawesi province nabbed seven members of a gang of armed robbers allegedly linked to a Poso terrorist network during a raid at their hideout in the area.

Police and the elite anti-terrorism unit have come under increasing criticism following a number of killings during raids. Last week, five officers were arrested for alleged brutality during a 2007 counterterrorism operation. The case was reviewed after video surfaced online showing uniformed officers trampling and yelling at shirtless, bound suspects lying face down on the ground.

Terrorist attacks aimed at foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces.