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Big manhunt after Indonesian cops killed
Publication Date : 20-10-2012
Security forces comb central Sulawesi mountains for militants for third day
Indonesian security forces are going all out to hunt down militants responsible for the killing of two police officers in a forest in Central Sulawesi, as top officials fingered members of radical group Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) for the killings.
For a third day, about 150 police officers and 100 soldiers combed the treacherous Tamanjeka mountains in Poso district yesterday, laying siege to the area.
A number of residents have fled their villages for a neighbouring hamlet, the Jakarta Post reported from Sulawesi, saying they feared a gun battle between the authorities and hardline militants.
The militants "have been moving the training camp from one place to another in Poso over the past two years", police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told the local media yesterday.
A letter to anti-terror unit Detachment 88 appeared on radical forums this week, challenging its officers to "fight openly, man to man". It was dated October 14.
"We are waiting for you," the letter signed by wanted militant Santoso said. Santoso signed off as "commandant of mujahideen in Eastern Indonesia".
The bodies of the two policemen were found in a shallow hole on Tuesday with their throats slit and heads almost decapitated, a week after they disappeared while on duty investigating a terrorist training camp.
The killings, Brigadier-General Boy Rafli said, appear to have occurred three or four days prior to the discovery of the bodies, not too far from the site of the suspected paramilitary training camp. A helmet and ammunition were among evidence collected from the scene.
The gory discovery came after a spate of attacks by radicals on police officers in Solo, Central Java and Sulawesi over the past two months, which resulted in 20 militants picked up or killed resisting arrest.
National Intelligence Agency chief Marciano Norman told reporters this week there were indications that the JAT, successor to the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist network, was involved in the kidnapping and killing of the two policemen, Chief Brigadier Sudirman and Brigadier Andi Sappa.
JAT spokesman Son Hadi Muhadjir, however, went to police headquarters in Jakarta yesterday to dismiss allegations against his organisation. Terror analysts say the JAT has two faces, with those above ground denying any link to the underground members.
"We have not had, or run, a military training camp. None of the JAT members is in Poso," Son Hadi told reporters, claiming that the hardline organisation had 1,500 members across Indonesia.
The JAT was founded by jailed firebrand cleric Abu Bakar Bashir. He was moved this month to the high-security Nusakambangan island prison to serve a 15-year sentence for helping to organise a terrorist training camp in Aceh, where militants were planning Mumbai-style gun attacks on senior Indonesian government officials.