JAKARTA – A gunfight that erupted between police and alleged militants in the jungles of Central Sulawesi has killed the two suspects, with preliminary evidence identifying the man as Indonesia’s most-wanted terrorist Santoso, responsible for the beheadings and deaths of a number of police officers.
“One of the slain terrorists is supposedly Santoso, identified by the long beard and moles. The other body has yet to be identified,” said Central Sulawesi Police deputy chief Leo Bona Lubis, as cited by the Jakarta Post newspaper.
Santoso, also known as Abu Wardah, a member of the East Indonesia Mujahidin, or East Indonesia Holy Warriors, had been on the run for at least five years before his alleged death at the hands of police forces in the port hub of Poso on Central Sulawesi’s northeastern coast.
The gunfight was sparked at 5 p.m. local time (1000 GMT) on Monday when a group of men bathing in a river opened fire on police patrolling nearby. When police returned fire, two men dropped dead while three other people fled the scene.
Less than two months ago, the group led by Santoso released a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group on June 3, in which members outfitted with M-16 rifles posed with an IS flag, according to the Terrorism Research and Analysis Consortium (TRAC), which notes that the group was founded in 2010.
Central Sulawesi police have said that the bodies are still in the jungle but a team has now been dispatched to recover and identify the corpses.