Friday, September 18, 2009

Bali mastermind Noordin Top killed in Indonesian raid

Mark Dodd

ASIAN terrorist mastermind Noordin Mohammed Top, the man responsible for plotting the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, has been killed during an Indonesian police raid against suspected Islamist militants in Central Java.

Top was one of four people who died during the raid yesterday on a militant hideout near Solo, Indonesia's police chief, Bambang Hendarso Danuri, confirmed last night.

"He is Noordin M. Top," Mr Danuri said. On the run for more than a decade, Malaysian-born Top, 41, had managed to elude police by using a well-established network of sympathetic Islamist supporters and family connections. In a major embarrassment for Indonesian police last month, they claimed to have killed Top after an epic 17-hour siege only to discover he had escaped.

The bomb-maker, who fled to Indonesia after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, is best known for plotting the 2002 Bali bombings, in which 202 people died, 88 of them Australians. He was also behind the 2005 Bali blasts that killed 20 people, including four Australians. But his hand was behind many other terrorist attacks.

Indonesian police hold Top responsible for masterminding attacks on the JW Marriott Hotel in 2003 that left 12 killed and another suicide bombing one year later at the Australian embassy in Jakarta that killed 10 people and left dozens injured.

He is also suspected of having had a role in the bombings at the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton hotels in July, in which seven people died, including three Australians.

Top's end finally came yesterday morning in a small suburban house in Kepuh Sari village on the outskirts of Solo in Central Java, a stronghold of the Jemaah Islamiah terror network.

Bali bomb victim Peter Hughes, who suffered shocking burns during the 2002 Bali bombing, welcomed the news of Top's death.

"If it's correct, then Indonesian authorities have done their job," Mr Hughes said.

"The victims' families can feel a little bit relieved knowing that a main guy has been caught and that justice has probably finally been done."

Police confirmed the identity of three others killed in the house, which was stormed early yesterday after a nine-hour siege.

They were Susilo, who rented the house, a close associate of Top; Bagus Budi Pranoto, alias "Urwah"; and another bomb-maker named Maruto.

Loud explosions and gunfire were heard during the police raid on the militants' hideout.

"Despite repeated warnings to surrender, there was a firefight," Mr Danuri said. "A motorcycle was hit, caught fire and they took refuge by huddling in the bathroom. But our men breached the wall as morning prayers came; at around 5am or 6am, we carried out a quick operation in three hours and we managed to disable them."

Jakarta-based intelligence sources said yesterday's raid was linked to an arrest on Wednesday of a close Top associate and another raid last month in West Java in which police killed two suspected militants and found up to 500kg of bombs in a house in Bekasi.

Top led an offshoot of the Jemaah Islamiah terrorist group known as al-Qa'ida in the Malay Archipelago.

Jakarta-based Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group said that although Top's death was a major blow, it was not a fatal knockout against his group.

"It's significant because it means the most dangerous man in Southeast Asia has been taken out of commission, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the problem of terrorism is over and done with," she said.

Indonesian expert and former senior Office of National Assessments Indonesian analyst Ken Ward agreed. "They've lost a central figure, a person of enormous importance, but let's not assume this is the end of Indonesian terrorism," he said.

Source: The Australian

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