Media report claims Indonesian police have arrested Jemaah Islamiah leader

JAKARTA - A man believed to be the emir, or top leader, of the South-east Asia terror group Jemaah Islamiah (JI) was arrested early Saturday morning (June 29) after a 16-year long hunt.

Para Wijayanto, who is in his mid-50s, has reportedly been the emir since 2008.

He replaced former leader Abu Husna who was arrested in Malaysia that same year and later deported back to Indonesia.

Before reaching the top position in the JI outfit dubbed by counter-terrorism experts as "neo-JI", Para Wijayanto held various senior positions and was involved in training and recruitment.

He was captured just after 6am in the Adaya Hotel in Bekasi, Beritasatu.com reported on Sunday citing a police source.

The town is in the West Java province, about 25km south-east of Jakarta.

The man has been on the police priority wanted list since 2003.

Following his arrest, police took him to the house he rented in the Pesona Telaga residential complex in Cibinong, West Java province, where 10 sharp weapons, books, a mobile phone and a video camera were seized.

"He (Para Wijayanto) is the emir (leader) of Jemaah Islamiah, which has been declared as a terrorist organisation and is banned," Beritasatu cited a police officer who declined to be named.

The JI network was behind Indonesia's most deadly attack in Bali in 2002.

It was also behind the 2009 attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta.

Although the group was initially believed to have been decimated in Indonesia following a series of operations by security agencies, counter-terrorism experts had warned that young militants were being recruited and that the JI network in the country may have expanded to become a 2,00-strong force.

The "neo-JI" term was coined to describe this new threat.

Beritasatu.com reported that Para Wijayanto first emerged on police radar in 2003 for his role in several terror attacks, including the Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people, mostly foreign tourists.

Para Wijayanto interacted directly with then JI leaders including slain ringleader Noordin Mohammed Top and Umar Patek, who is behind bars.

"Para Wijayanto has since 2003 been on the run, but he is still active in Jemaah Islamiah or Neo-Jemaah Islamiah. He had knowledge and gave nods to members of Jemaah Islamiah who wanted to travel to Syria," Beritasatu.com reported, citing the police official.

The JI network is affiliated with Al-Qaeda, which oversees Jabhat al-Nusra, a terror organisation fighting Syrian government forces in the Syrian Civil War.

National police spokesman Inspector General Muhammad Iqbal did not confirm the arrest when Beritasatu.com contacted him.

The Straits Times has contacted the national police for comment.