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Bomb Plot Alleged as Suspects Are Arrested in Indonesia

Officers stand guard around a house after it was raided by police in Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia, Dec. 10, 2016. Indonesian police said they safely detonated a bomb discovered in the raid and arrested suspected Islamic militants alleged to have been planning to attack the presidential palace.

Three alleged terrorists arrested near Jakarta were thought to be on the verge of carrying out an attack on a tourist area of the capital Sunday, Indonesian authorities said.

A police spokesman in Jakarta said the suspects — two men and a woman — were planning to detonate a homemade bomb during a changing-of-the-guard ceremony at the presidential palace. The pressure-cooker bomb, weighing about 3 kilograms, would have been lethal over a 300-meter radius, the spokesman added.

A fourth person, the suspected bomb-maker, was arrested Saturday in another province, police spokesman Argo Yuwono said.

"For the very first time, [the suspected terrorists] put a woman as 'the bride,' " terrorism expert Al Chaidar told VOA. "Bride" is a nickname for suicide bombers, who in the past have usually been male.

"It seems like the indoctrination has succeeded in attracting more young people, including women," Chaidar added. "This is a new breakthrough. Now we have to be alert that they are not only using men as 'the bride,' but also women."

Jakarta, Indonesia
Jakarta, Indonesia

The woman was arrested Saturday at a house in Jakarta where the bomb also was recovered, police said, and the other two men were detained at a separate location in the capital. The fourth suspect was arrested in Solo city, Central Java.

Police think all of the accused terrorists are part of a militant network linked to a bomb-making lab uncovered last month in West Java province. The group is thought to have ties to an Indonesian militant, Bahrun Naim, who is fighting in Syria alongside followers of the Islamic State group.

Naim is thought to have been responsible for an attack in January at a Starbucks shop in Jakarta — a suicide bomb explosion that killed four civilians.

After a series of deadly attacks more than a decade ago, Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, cracked down hard on potential security threats, many of them linked to the al-Qaida terror network. But authorities are concerned that a new threat has emerged with the presence in the country of Islamic State supporters during the past few years.

Indonesian police have been on alert in advance of Christmas and New Year celebrations, which are popular in many parts of the island nation. Bomb blasts in seven Indonesian cities were carried out on Christmas night in 2000.

Eva Mazrieva of VOA Indonesian contributed to this story from Washington.