Indonesian police shot dead a man suspected to be leading Islamic militant Noordin Mohammad Top after an 18-hour siege in Central Java and planned to confirm his identity using DNA tests, police said yesterday.
Police in a separate raid foiled a plot to attack Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s residence outside the capital, Jakarta, with a car bomb, officials said.
Malaysian-born Top is a prime suspect in last month’s near simultaneous suicide attacks on Jakarta’s JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels that killed nine people and wounded 53.
Yudhoyono has vowed to track down the bombers and if Top has been killed or captured it would be major coup for security forces and could reduce the chance of further attacks.
Police planned to seek a DNA sample from the family of Top to confirm his death after a shoot-out in Central Java, national police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri told a news conference.
“We welcome if the family, the wife wants to see the face. If this is Noordin Top then please let us check the DNA. If this is done then we can say who this is,” he said.
Police have launched a series of raids since Friday and two police sources close to the investigation into the hotel attacks said a man suspected to be Top was killed in Temanggung, more than 400km southeast of Jakarta.
“He was shot dead,” one source said, adding that raids in the area had led police to a house in Bekasi, on the outskirts of the capital, where up to 500kg of bombs had been found. A correspondent in Bekasi heard a loud blast from the cordoned-off area and police said they had killed two suspected militants.
The militants were planning a suicide car bomb attack on the Yudhoyono’s residence in Bogor near Jakarta, the police chief said. He added that the militants planned to use a minibus packed with explosives to target Yudhoyono, holding him responsible for the execution of the Bali bombers last year.
Intelligence officials say Top, 40, and fellow Malaysian Azahari Husin, a bomb maker who was killed in a 2005 police raid, were leaders in the Jemaah Islamiah militant network, blamed for a series of bomb attacks in Indonesia since 2002.
Top is believed to have planned previous bomb attacks on the JW Marriott in Jakarta in 2003, on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004 and in Bali in 2005.
Security consultant Ken Conboy said Top was key to the network with his skills of recruiting suicide bombers.
“If you look at the history of violent radicalism in Indonesia, once they wrap up the main players, it goes into a period of hiatus for a time,” he said.
On Friday, police had said two men who were believed to be Top’s bodyguards had been arrested in a workshop in a market in the village of Temanggung and had led police to a small, red-roofed house in the same area, surrounded by trees and rice fields, where there was a shoot-out and overnight standoff with suspected militants.
Yesterday, after sporadic exchanges of gunfire, explosions shook the house followed by further shooting. Then TV footage showed police carrying items from inside the house, while laughing and shaking hands with colleagues.
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