Two would-be suicide bombers who were weeks away from launching a car-bomb attack were killed during a police raid near Jakarta early on Saturday, the Indonesian police chief said.
National police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri said the two men were shot dead as they were about to detonate hand-made bombs during the raid, which uncovered a vast cache of explosive material and a car rigged as a bomb.
He said the house in Bekasi, outside Jakarta, was being used as a base by a "cell of NMT," referring to alleged terror mastermind Noordin Mohammed Top, who is wanted for multiple suicide bombings in Indonesia.
"We had to shoot them because at the time of the raid they had hand-held bombs that were about to be thrown at the police," he said, identifying the suspects as Air Setiawan and Eko Gepeng.
"They were would-be bridegrooms (suicide bombers) with special targets for attacks to be carried out two weeks from now... This place was a cell of NMT."
Danuri said the raid was linked to the counter-terror operation in Central Java, where police besieged a suspected Noordin hideout and exchanged heavy gunfire with the occupants.
At least three people were killed in the shooting, according to an AFP reporter at the scene, but police have not confirmed local media reports that one of the dead was Noordin himself.
Asked whether Noordin was inside the house in Beji village, the police chief said only "God willing".
Noordin is suspected of masterminding the 2004 attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta as well as suicide blasts at the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta in 2003, Bali tourist restaurants in 2005 and the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta on July 17.
Danuri said the two suicide bombers used in the July 17 attacks, which killed seven people including six foreigners, had been identified last week.
He gave their names as Nana and Dani, but provided no further details about their identities or possible connection to Noordin, a Malaysian Islamist who led a splinter group of the Jemaah Islamiyah regional terror network.
Three other men had also been arrested in relation to last month's hotel attacks, including one named Amir Abdillah who allegedly booked the Marriott hotel room used by the bombers in the days before the attacks.
It was not clear when these three men had been arrested, but they were part of a series of related operations aimed at disrupting Noordin's network and capturing the 40-year-old Malaysian.
The would-be bombers killed Saturday at the house in Bekasi had been Noordin's "accomplices" in the 2004 Australian embassy car-bombing, which killed 10 people and wounded scores more, the police chief said.
The house had been booby-trapped and inside police found enough explosive material to make a 100-kilogram bomb, as well as Tupperware containers and other equipment used for bomb-making.
"There was also a vehicle that had been prepared as a mobile bomb to be used in the next two weeks. I can't disclose the target right now," he added, saying first he needed to brief President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Jakarta police chief Wahyono said the suspects had been under surveillance for 10 days as part of the investigation into the July 17 hotel attacks. "We sniffed out the house, which was used to make bombs, 10 days ago," he said.
"We suspected that the house was a safe house for the NMT network, especially to build bombs and to prepare the vehicle," he added.
He said the two suspects tried to throw pipe bombs when police moved to arrest them, approaching the suburban house in a vehicle at around 1:00 am (1800 GMT Friday). "We attacked them and they are dead," he said.
A red pick-up Mitsubishi had been prepared to become a bomb, while other bomb-making material found at the house was "similar" to the devices used at the hotels last month, he said.