PALU, Indonesia (AP) – Indonesia’s most wanted militant with ties to the Islamic State group was killed Saturday in a shootout with security forces, the Indonesian military said, in a broad counterterrorism campaign against extremists in remote mountainous jungles.
Ali Kalora was one of two militants killed in the shooting, said Central Sulawesi’s regional military chief, Brigadier General Farid Makruf. He identified the other suspected extremist as Jaka Ramadan.
The two men were shot dead during a raid on Saturday night by a joint military-police team in the mountainous Parigi Moutong district of Central Sulawesi province, Makruf said. It borders the Poso district, considered an extremist hotbed in the province.
“Ali Kalora was the most wanted terrorist and the leader of MIT,” Makruf said, referring to the Indonesian acronym for the East Indonesia Mujahideen network, a militant group that pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014.
He said security forces were searching for the four remaining members of the group.
The East Indonesian mujahideen have claimed responsibility for several killings of police officers and Christian minorities.
Security operations in central Sulawesi have intensified in recent months to try to capture members of the network, especially targeting Ali Kalora, the group’s leader.
Kalora had eluded capture for more than a decade. He replaced Abu Wardah Santoso, who was assassinated by security forces in July 2016. Since then, dozens of other leaders and members of the group have been killed or captured.
In May, militants killed four Christians in a Poso district village, including one who was beheaded. Authorities said the attack was in retaliation for the killing in March of two militants, including Santoso’s son.
Makruf said the rough terrain and darkness have hampered efforts to evacuate the two bodies from the scene of the shooting in the forested village of Astina. He said the bodies of Kaloran and his follower will be flown by helicopter Sunday morning for further investigation and identification.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has continued to crack down on militants since the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
Attacks on foreigners have largely been replaced by smaller and less deadly attacks on the government, police and counter-terrorism forces.