JAKARTA • Indonesian security forces have killed two ethnic Uighur Chinese belonging to a militant network led by the country's most wanted man, police said.
Indonesia has launched an aggressive, military-backed, security campaign in the jungles of Sulawesi island as it battles the threat from growing domestic support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.
Police yesterday said the two militants, part of China's Uighur Muslim minority, had joined Santoso, who is Indonesia's most high-profile ISIS backer and has been on the run for over three years.
Tuesday's shootout followed a challenge by security forces to a group of unknown men to identify themselves during an operation to comb through a forested area of Poso in central Sulawesi.
"Based on testimony from another suspect we had arrested, those two were identified as Uighurs," said Central Sulawesi police spokesman Hari Suprapto, adding that the authorities had notified China's embassy in Jakarta. A Chinese embassy press official told Reuters no information had yet been received on the deaths, however.
Four Uighur men were jailed last year for attempting to join the same militant network, whose leader the authorities say they have cornered, after a hunt that lasted more than a year and involved hundreds of troops.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Uighurs keen to escape unrest in their far-western Chinese homeland of Xinjiang have travelled clandestinely via South-east Asia to Turkey. China says they often end up crossing into Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIS.
Hundreds of people have been killed over the past few years in resource-rich Xinjiang, strategically located on the borders of central Asia, in violence between Uighurs and ethnic majority Han Chinese.