PETALING JAYA: Indonesia’s most-wanted Islamic militant, Noordin Mohammad Top, was killed during a raid in central Java, national police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri said on Thursday.
Asked if it was true that Noordin had been killed, Danuri told reporters in Jakarta: “Yes, yes, yes.”
He said fingerprint tests had proven positive, but police were still awaiitng results of a DNA test that would remove all doubt.
The police chief had just held a meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Reuters reported.
Earlier, The Associated Press had reported from Solo that police hunting for suspects in Jakarta hotel bombings raided a hideout in central Java, sparking gunfire and an explosion Thursday that left four suspected militants dead.
Speculation was rife that one of them was Noordin .
Officials said that three more alleged terrorists were also captured.
A counter-terrorism official said the dead included alleged bomb-maker Bagus Budi Pranato.
The captured militants included a pregnant woman who was being treated at a local hospital, national police spokesman Nanan Sukarna said. Her condition was stable.
Police tracked the seven suspects to the town of Solo in Central Java and besieged a village house on the outskirts overnight. The raid ended around daybreak when an explosion was detonated inside the home, the police spokesman said.
Indonesian television showed footage of a burnt-out house, with no roof and blown-out walls.
Broadcaster TVOne speculated that an unidentified body was that of Malaysian-born Noordin, the region’s most wanted militant, but there was no confirmation and his death has erroneously been reported before.
Large quantities of explosives, weapons, grenades and bombs were recovered from the scene as ambulances shuttled away the dead and injured.
There were conflicting reports on what caused the blast, but Sukarna said “it most likely came from police trying to force their way inside” and that it was not a suicide bomb as had been reported earlier.
Special police forces captured two men, identified as Bejo and Supono, who led them to the hideout and after a seven-hour siege police recovered four men dead and the pregnant woman.
Forensic testing was under way to confirm the identities of the dead, Sukarna said, adding that a police officer was shot in the hand during the seven-hour siege.
The accused bomb-maker, Pranoto, also known as Urwah, was wanted in connection with twin suicide blasts at luxury hotels in the capital, Jakarta, in July, a counterterrorism official said on condition of anonymity.
A young couple who rented the house and had been teaching Islamic studies at local schools were also in the house and the husband was killed, the official said.
Pranoto, 31, was released in April 2007 after serving a 3 1/2-year sentence for harbouring terrorists. Experts say he was a close associate of Noordin, who has been eluding capture by authorities in South-East Asia since 2001. He also was closely linked to senior clerics in the Jemaah Islamiyah regional militant network and had been actively recruiting members to carry out fresh attacks.
Police cordoned off a neighbourhood and cut power supplies late Wednesday night in the suburb of Solo, a stronghold for hardline Islamist groups. Gunfire was heard throughout the night, an Associated Press reporter at the scene said.
An explosion went off around daybreak Thursday and four ambulances later drove away carrying at least two bodies in orange bags, the reporter said.
Police had confirmed a special forces operation was unfolding, but declined to give details.
“I ran out of my house in fear when I heard the gunfire,” said Widjan, a neighbour.
The besieged property was rented several months ago by the couple, identified by the anonymous official as Adit Susilo and Putri Munawaroh. They were working at an Islamic boarding school, neighbourhood chief Suratim said.
The raid comes as police continue a massive manhunt for perpetrators of attacks on the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta on July 17. The blasts killed seven people and wounded more than 50, ending nearly four years without terrorist strikes in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
Several suspects have been detained or gunned down in raids in recent weeks, but police are still searching for several militant operatives believed to have planned the operation and recruited the bombers.
Noordin allegedly leads a breakaway group of the South-East Asian terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah, which carried out a string of bombings in Indonesia in recent years with the support of al-Qaeda.
Terrorist attacks have killed 250 people in Indonesia since 2002, including the Bali nightclub bombing that year that left more than 200 people dead, most of them foreign tourists. -- AP
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