Indonesian police shoot dead suspected Islamic militant

JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesian anti-terror police Friday shot dead a suspected Islamic militant accused of deadly attacks on policemen and having links to the country's most wanted extremist, an official said.

The world's most populous Muslim-majority nation has struggled with Islamic extremism for more than a decade, facing a series of attacks on Western targets, although a crackdown has weakened the most dangerous networks.

The elite anti-terror unit shot dead the suspected militant, identified by police only as Ronny, during a firefight early Friday in a small village in Kediri district, on the main island of Java.

"He tried to escape and opened fire on police," national police spokesman Ronny Sompie told AFP, adding that the suspect died at the scene.

Sompie said that the man was linked to the country's most-wanted Islamic extremist, Santoso, leader of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen militant group, which hides out in the jungles on central Sulawesi island.

He was allegedly behind deadly attacks on four policemen.

The militants on Sulawesi are thought to be among the few that remain a real threat in Indonesia. They regularly launch attacks but these tend to target Indonesian security forces and be low-impact.

Indonesia launched a largely successful crackdown on Islamic militant groups following the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.

But fears are growing about the influence of the Islamic State In Iraq and Syria extremist group, with some worried that Indonesians returning from fighting in Iraq or Syria could revive sophisticated militant networks.