Plot against president suspected
Indonesia says key terrorist believed dead
BEJI, Indonesia - A leading Southeast Asian terrorist suspect reportedly killed yesterday in a gun battle with police at a village hideout was planning a suicide car bomb attack on Indonesia’s president, the national police chief said.
Local TV stations reported that alleged terrorist mastermind Noordin Mohammad Top was killed in the lengthy bomb and gun battle at a house in Java. Noordin is suspected in last month’s suicide bomb attacks on two American hotels in Jakarta, as well as the deaths of more than 220 people in bomb blasts on the resort island of Bali in 2002 and 2005.
Together the bombings linked to Noordin and the Southeast Asian-based Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist network killed 250 people, many of them Western tourists.
The remains of a man believed to be Noordin were flown to Jakarta for an autopsy, but police “cannot yet confirm that this is Noordin Top,’’ Police Chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri said.
Police do not want to say that Noordin is assumed dead and any announcement will have to wait until next week after a DNA examination is complete, Hendarso told a nationally televised news conference.
It was unclear if police have any samples on file that can be used for the DNA test.
The July attacks on the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta killed seven people, all but one of them foreigners, and ended a four-year pause in terrorism strikes in Indonesia.
Noordin is also believed to have orchestrated an attack on the J.W. Marriott Hotel in 2003 and a blast outside the Australian Embassy in 2004, together killing dozens and wounding hundreds in the capital.
Those early attacks were blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah and were believed to be funded by Al Qaeda, but Noordin later reportedly broke away from the Southeast Asian group to form a more violent offshoot and his foreign ties became uncertain. It is unknown how the recent hotel suicide blasts were funded.
Noordin emerged as the region’s most prominent suspected terrorist leader and is known as a skilled bomb maker who has eluded capture for around seven years.
A Malaysian citizen, Noordin claimed in a video in 2005 to be Al Qaeda’s representative in Southeast Asia and to be carrying out attacks on Western civilians to avenge Muslim deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.