PALU, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia’s most wanted militant with ties to the Islamic State group was killed Saturday in a shootout with security forces, the Indonesian military said, in a sweeping counterterrorism campaign against extremists in the remote mountain jungles.
Ali Kalora was one of two militants killed in the raid, said Central Sulawesi’s regional military chief Brig. Gen. Farid Makruf. He identified the other suspected extremist as Jaka Ramadan.
The two men were fatally shot late Saturday by a joint team of military and police officers in Central Sulawesi province’s mountainous Parigi Moutong district, Makruf said. It borders Poso district, considered an extremist hotbed in the province.
“Ali Kalora was the most wanted terrorist and leader of MIT,” Makruf said, referring to the Indonesian acronym of the East Indonesia Mujahideen network, a militant group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014.
He said that security forces were searching for four remaining suspected members of the group.
Saturday’s shootout occurred two months after security forces killed two suspected members of the group during a pre-dawn raid in the same mountainous district.
The East Indonesia Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several killings of police officers and minority Christians.
Security operations in the area have intensified in recent months to try to capture members of the network, targeting Ali Kalora, the group’s leader.
Kalora had eluded capture for more than a decade. He took over from Abu Wardah Santoso, who was killed by security forces in July 2016. Dozens of other leaders and members of the group have been killed or captured since then.
In May, the militants killed four Christians in a village in Poso district, including one who was beheaded. Authorities said the attack was in revenge for the killing in March of two militants, including Santoso’s son.
Makruf said that rugged terrain and darkness have hampered efforts to evacuate the two bodies from the scene of the shootout in the forested village of Astina. He said the bodies of Kalora and his follower will be taken by helicopter on Sunday morning for further investigation and identification.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has kept up a crackdown on militants since bombings on the tourist island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces, and people militants consider to be infidels, inspired by Islamic State group tactics abroad.