Indonesia police kill 3 suspects in raids; officials think Bali bomb mastermind is among dead

By Rod Mcguirk, AP
Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Officials: Bali bombing mastermind may be dead

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A top-ranked Southeast Asian militant wanted for planning the 2002 Bali bombings may have been killed in a shootout with police at an Internet cafe Tuesday moments after sitting at a terminal, authorities said. DNA tests were under way to confirm his identity.

Dulmatin, a 39-year-old Indonesian trained by al-Qaida in Afghanistan who goes by one name, is wanted in the suicide bombings that tore through two Bali nightclubs popular with Westerners, killing 202 people in Indonesia’s deadliest terrorist attack.

He has been one of Southeast Asia’s most wanted fugitives and was thought to have fled to the Philippines. The U.S. government offered a reward of up to $10 million for his capture.

Local media and two Indonesian authorities who did not want to be named said Dulmatin is believed to have been shot dead by police Tuesday in the Internet cafe, the first of three suspected militants killed in two coordinated raids southwest of the capital on the country’s main island of Java.

Police spokesman Maj. Gen. Edward Aritonang said investigators would await results of DNA tests before confirming identities.

Eliminating the alleged master bomb maker of the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group would be a major achievement for Indonesian security forces ahead of President Barack Obama’s first visit to the country March 20-22. Terrorism in the region will be a major focus of talks.

An Indonesian broadcaster, MetroTV, has shown footage of the dead suspect slouched in a chair with a revolver in his hand and his head resting against a window frame. The face resembles photographs of Dulmatin. His hair is cropped short and his mustache and goatee beard appear neatly trimmed around a gaping mouth.

Dulmatin’s father, Djajuli, said his son has been reported dead before and that he does not believe Dulmatin is the dead man.

“His wife tells me that he’s still in the Philippines,” Djajuli, who also goes by a single name, told MetroTV from his home in Central Java province.

Dulmatin had been believed killed in the Phillippines in 2008, but DNA tests of a body found in a shallow grave there proved otherwise. Militant leader Noordin Mohammad Top, also blamed for the Bali bombings, was mistakenly reported killed in a shootout with police on Java a month before he died in a police raid in September.

Dulmatin’s wife Istiada Oemar Sovie and their four children were deported to Indonesia from the Philippines in 2007 after security forces let him slip through their fingers.

Military commanders say Dulmatin was held along with some villagers near his house, which the troops raided, but they allowed him and the others to go thinking they were innocent bystanders. Dulmatin’s children later told investigators that their father bid them goodbye and left the house a few hours before the raid, apparently sensing danger.

There was no such lucky escape for the dead customer in the Internet cafe.

Manager Rinda Riyani said the suspect had begun using an upstairs computer only five minutes before plainclothes police rushed in.

“I heard gunshots and later saw the man was dead,” said Riyani, who had been downstairs and did not see the shooting.

Aritonang said the suspect managed to fire a single shot from a fully loaded revolver before he died.

Police later arrested two other suspects at a nearby house in Pamulang district and shot and killed two others as they tried to flee on a motorbike, Aritonang said. One of the slain suspects had fired a handgun, he said.

The raids were part of a police crackdown on a suspected Jemaah Islamiyah cell which recently established a paramilitary training camp in the western province of Aceh.

Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf told reporters after visiting the scene of the fatal raids that he thought the new terrorist presence in his province was the “network of Dulmatin.” Yusuf did not comment on whether Dulmatin had been killed.

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