PALU (Indonesia) — In a broad counterterrorism campaign to combat extremists living in remote mountain forests, Indonesia’s military claimed that the militant who was most wanted by the Islamic State group, had been killed during a shootout between security forces and the militant.
Ali Kalora was one of two militants killed in the raid, said Central Sulawesi’s regional military chief Brig. Gen. Farid Makruf. Jaka Ramadan was identified as the second suspected extremist.
The two men were fatally shot late Saturday by a joint team of military and police officers in Central Sulawesi province’s mountainous Parigi Moutong district, Makruf said. The area borders Poso, a district that is considered an extremist hotbed.
“Ali Kalora was the most wanted terrorist and leader of MIT,” Makruf said, referring to the Indonesian acronym of the East Indonesia Mujahideen network, a militant group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014.
He said that security forces were searching for four remaining suspected members of the group.
Saturday’s shootout occurred two months after security forces killed two suspected members of the group during a pre-dawn raid in the same mountainous district.
The East Indonesia Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several killings of police officers and minority Christians.
Security operations in the area have intensified in recent months to try to capture members of the network, targeting Ali Kalora, the group’s leader.
Kalora had eluded capture for more than a decade. Abu Wardah Santoso was murdered in July . Since then, dozens of leaders and other members have been either killed or captured.
In May, the militants killed four Christians in a village in Poso district, including one who was beheaded. The attack is believed to be revenge for Santoso’s death in March.
Makruf said that rugged terrain and darkness have hampered efforts to evacuate the two bodies from the scene of the shootout in the forested village of Astina. According to Makruf, the bodies of Kalora’s follower and Kalora will be transported by helicopter Sunday morning for additional investigation and identification.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has kept up a crackdown on militants since bombings on the tourist island of Bali in 2002 killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and anti-terrorism forces, and people militants consider to be infidels, inspired by Islamic State group tactics abroad.