Indonesia – Indonesia's most-wanted Islamic militant, Noordin Mohammad Top, may have been killed in a shoot-out in Central Java, security and police sources said on Thursday.
Indonesian police stormed a house in Java overnight and killed four people.
We are 90 percent certain that it's Noordin Top, a police source who was involved in the raid on a house in Solo, Central Java, told Reuters. Asked how he could be sure, the source said he had seen the face of the dead man believed to be Top.
Other security and police sources also said they strongly believed Top had been killed.
Malaysian-born Top, who set up a violent splinter group of regional militant group Jemaah Islamiah, is suspected by police to be the mastermind behind bomb attacks on two luxury hotels in Jakarta in July, as well as other attacks in Bali and in Jakarta.
Police said on Thursday they were trying to confirm whether Top was among those killed in the raid on the house in Solo.
National police spokesman Nanan Soekarna said three people had been captured in the raid, including the wife of the man renting the house and two others, who were detained earlier.
Asked if Top could be among the dead, Soekarna said: We all hope so. But he said forensic tests would be needed to identify the bodies. We also confiscated explosives, weapons and a grenade from the house, he said by telephone. He later told reporters that eight sacks of explosives had been found.
Local media said the dead included Bagus Budi Pranoto, also known as Urwah, one of the suspects wanted by police in connection with the hotel bombings.
Urwah is believed to be a close associate of Top and was previously jailed for 3 years for terrorism offences.
Local resident Mijan Suswowiyono, 54, told Reuters the couple who had rented the house had been working at a nearby Islamic boarding school and been in the house since July.
A police source told Reuters a suspected bomb-expert, known as Aji, was also killed in the raid.
Police have been hunting for a number of suspects believed to be behind the near-simultaneous attacks on the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels on July 17 in which nine people, including two suicide bombers, were killed and 53 wounded.
The July bombings ended a four-year lull in militant attacks in Indonesia and killing or capturing Top would be a coup for security forces and efforts to contain further attacks in Southeast Asia's biggest economy.
Malayasian-born Top, who set up a violent splinter group of the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiah, is suspected by police to be the mastermind behind those and other attacks.
Top, a key recruiter, strategist and financier for Jemaah Islamiah, has been on the run for years, eluding capture on several occasions.
Reports that police had killed Top during a raid in Central Java last month proved to be incorrect.
Before the latest raid, police had arrested at least six people, including a Saudi national, and three others died during raids targeting militants linked to the bombings. The authorities are trying to determine whether the attackers received overseas funding from al Qaeda.
(Additional reporting by Telly Nathalia and Olivia Rondonuwu in JAKARTA; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)