Jakarta. The National Police have decided not to equip officers with firearms during Wednesday's expected election protests in Jakarta, as they seek to minimize risks despite threats of terrorist attacks.
The police have made a series of arrests in the past week that confirmed the existence of terrorist cells affiliated to the Islamic State and plans to sow chaos in the country by targeting street protests by supporters of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto.
The police said they will deploy 32,000 officers to secure the capital. Having unarmed officers will make it easier for them to identify potential attackers.
"Then if someone uses live ammunition on May 22, it can be assumed they're the [terrorist] attackers. Security forces must not – and this is an order from the top – carry firearms or live ammunition to the protests," police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said on Saturday.
The decision not to carry firearms will also minimize potential casualties among protesters who may be caught in crossfire during a terrorist attack.
"Our officers will only be armed with riot shields, tear gas and water cannons," Dedi said.
The Indonesian Military (TNI) will lend a hand to the police on Wednesday, sending in an anti-riot team to prevent demonstrators from getting out of hand.
"We're prepared for everything," Dedi said
Police anti-terror unit Densus 88 arrested another terror suspect in Gresik, an industrial town close to Surabaya in East Java, on Saturday.
The suspect, identified as 43-year-old Agus Suparnoto, is allegedly a member of Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), a local terrorist cell affiliated to IS.
A series of raids in Lampung, West Java, Central Java and East Java this month have turned up evidence that the group plans to attack the election protests next week.
The police have arrested 30 suspected terrorists, including Agus, in the past four weeks. They did not say they had completely thwarted the terror plot.
The United States Embassy in Indonesia has issued a travel warning for its citizens traveling in Indonesia next week, telling them to "avoid areas where demonstrations or political rallies are occurring and exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large gathering."
The police have made a similar warning, urging the public to avoid areas where protesters gather in Jakarta and other cities.