A top-ranked Southeast Asian militant wanted for planning the deadliest terrorist attack in Indonesia’s history has been killed in a shootout with police at an Internet cafe, the president confirmed Wednesday.
Dulmatin, a 39-year-old Indonesian trained by al Qaeda in Afghanistan who goes by one name, was wanted for the suicide bombings that tore through two Bali nightclubs popular with Westerners in 2002, killing 202 people.
He has been one of Southeast Asia’s most wanted fugitives and was thought to have fled to the Philippines.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono used a speech to officials in the Australian capital of Canberra on Wednesday to confirm speculation that Dulmatin was one of three suspected militants killed in two coordinated raids the day before on Jakarta’s southwestern outskirts on the country’s main island of Java.
“Today we can announce to you that after a successful police raid against the terrorist hiding out in Jakarta yesterday that we can confirm that one of those that were killed was Mr. Dulmatin, one of the top Southeast Asian terrorists that we’ve been looking for,” Mr. Yudhoyono said in a luncheon speech in Parliament House.
He said Indonesia was engaged in a relentless fight against terrorism. “Indonesian authorities will continue to hunt them (terrorists) down and do all we can to prevent them from harming our people,” he said.
Eliminating the alleged master bomb maker of the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group, a Southeast Asian offshoot of al Qaeda, will be seen as a major achievement for Indonesian security forces ahead of President Barack Obama’s first visit to the country March 20-22. Terrorism in the region will be a major focus of talks.
It was not immediately clear if anyone is eligible for a $10 million reward offered by the U.S. government for Dulmatin’s capture.
Tuesday’s raids were part of a police crackdown on a suspected Jemaah Islamiyah cell that recently established a paramilitary training camp in the western province of Aceh. Police said they were based on information from about 20 suspected militants from Aceh and Java already in custody.
Greg Fealy, an Australian National University expert on Indonesian terrorism who is visiting Jakarta, said Dulmatin’s leadership proved that the Aceh cell was and remains a serious threat to the Southeast Asian region.
Mr. Fealy described the Dulmatin led-group as a composite that included Jemaah Islamiyah militants who had only taken root in Aceh within the past year. “This is the creation of a new composite group and that’s a worrying development how quickly these groups can spring up,” he said, adding that they remained a threat as dozens of suspected militants were still at large in Aceh.
Counterterror police have had several armed skirmishes with militants since they raided the Aceh group’s training camp on February 22.
Heavily armed police continue to hunt them village-by-village in the region surrounding the training camp in southern Aceh.
Police have said Dulmatin and the other two suspects killed Tuesday shared a rented house in south Jakarta. Two other suspects were arrested in raids Tuesday in the Pamulang district of Banten province. The other suspects have not been identified.
Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Edward Aritonang said the group had been financing the Aceh militants and supplying them with weapons. A large quantity of ammunition was seized in the raids.
It was not immediately clear how Dulmatin’s body was identified.
At least 14 suspects arrested in the current crackdown have been charged with planning terrorist attacks.