Indonesia captures top militant in new blow to Santoso group
JAKARTA, Indonesia — A senior figure from the East Indonesia Mujahideen militant group has been captured and one of the group’s members killed in a joint operation with the military, Indonesian police said.
The capture of Muhammad Basri on Wednesday is another blow to the militant group, based in the jungles of Central Sulawesi province. The group’s leader, Santoso, who was Indonesia’s most wanted Islamic radical, was killed by security forces in a shootout in July.
Basri was Santoso’s deputy and may have assumed leadership of the group’s dwindling ranks following Santoso’s death. It claims allegiance to the Islamic State group.
The capacity of Indonesia’s militant groups to carry out deadly attacks has been significantly weakened by a sustained crackdown following the Bali bombings in 2002 that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
But Indonesians who traveled to Syria to fight with IS have directed and funded attacks from abroad, including a suicide bombing and gun attack in Jakarta in January that killed eight people, including four militants.
National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said the man shot dead Wednesday near Poso Pesisir village in Poso district of Sulawesi was Andika Eka Putra.
He said police and military forces are still searching for the remaining 13 members of the East Indonesia Mujahideen group, including Ali Kalora, who is believed to have a key role.
“We are grateful that Basri, our important target after Santoso, was captured alive,” said National Police Chief Tito Karnavian. “This arrest will improve security in Poso.”
Karnavian said that Basri will be flown to Jakarta for further questioning.
About 2,500 security personnel, including elite army troops, intensified operations this year in Poso, a mountainous district of Central Sulawesi province considered an extremist hotbed, to try and capture Santoso and his followers.