Militant killed in Central Sulawesi may be Santoso, Indonesia's most-wanted terrorist

Indonesian troops arriving in Poso, Central Sulawesi, to join the hunt for Santoso in January 2016.
Indonesian troops arriving in Poso, Central Sulawesi, to join the hunt for Santoso in January 2016.PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/RUSLAN SANGAJI

JAKARTA - A gamut of forensic tests await the body of a militant, killed during a fire-fight with security forces in the jungles of Poso, Central Sulawesi on Monday (July 18).

Indonesian police say they plan to test the dead man for DNA, as well as call up jailed militants to identity his remains to establish if he is Santoso, the country's most wanted terrorist.

This after officers noticed that the corpse had a mole on his forehead just like the leader of the East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), also known as Abu Wardah.

"There is a mole on his forehead and Santoso has a mole on his forehead," said National Police chief Tito Karnavian on Monday night. "But I cannot confirm if it is him, the identification process is underway, We are checking his facial features for now, then we will do a DNA test, to reveal his identity."

Inspector-General Boy Rafli Amar said that the man was one of two militants who sustained fatal injuries after a skirmish with troops involved in Operation Tinombala, the kill-or-capture mission against Santoso and his men.

"There was an exchange of fire, possibly with Santoso's group," said the National Police spokesman. "There were five of them, two of them were killed, three escaped."

Another indication that dead man is Santoso was an M-16 assault rifle recovered at the scene of the gun-fight. The militant, who has been hiding out in the Poso jungles, is known to use an M-16.

The two bodies are now being moved from deep in the jungle to town for the identification tests, said the police but due to the rough terrain, they will only arrive on Tuesday at the earliest.

Some 3,500 troops from the Indonesian military and the police have been deployed to comb the jungles and mountainous areas of Poso in search of the MIT and Santoso.

President Joko Widodo has ordered General Tito, who was sworn in as police chief last week, to make the capture of Santoso a top priority for the force.

This is the second time the police have come close to taking down the elusive terrorist leader.

A militant, killed in gunfight in January somewhere in theTaunca Padalembara mountains of southern Poso had also resembled Santoso.

A report published in The Jakarta Post back then quoted Pian Djumpai, a former combatant who had once fought alongside Santoso, as saying the man killed in the skirmish appeared to look like Santoso.

This was apparently after a journalist from the newspaper had obtained a photograph of the corpse and had showed it to Pian.

If the latest corpse is indeed Santoso, his death would represent a major scalp for Indonesia’s counter-terrorism forces, which have been on an extended manhunt for the high-value target.

Santoso and his men from the MIT have pledged allegiance to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and were behind numerous attacks on police in recent years.

In March, the United States imposed a special terrorist designation on Santoso, blocking any US assets he might have, banning dealings with him by Americans and opening the way for American law-enforcement action against him.

The latest development comes after a policeman in Solo was wounded when he intercepted an ISIS-linked suicide bomber trying to blow up at a police station on the eve of Aidilfitri earlier this month.