Indonesian forces kill two Chinese Uighur fighters

Men were fighting for ISIL-linked group led by Santoso, Indonesia's most-wanted man.

    Uighur men arrested after trying to meet Indonesia's most wanted man, Santoso [Achmad Ibrahim/AP]
    Uighur men arrested after trying to meet Indonesia's most wanted man, Santoso [Achmad Ibrahim/AP]

    Indonesian security forces killed two ethnic Uighur Chinese belonging to a violent network led by the country's most wanted man who has pledged allegiance to ISIL.

    Indonesia has launched a military campaign in the jungles of Sulawesi island as it battles the threat from growing domestic support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (also known as ISIS).

    Police said on Wednesday that the men - part of China's Uighur Muslim minority - had joined the East Indonesia Mujahidin group led by Abu Wardah Santoso, Indonesia's most high-profile ISIL backer, who is based in Poso in central Sulawesi.

    Santoso has been on the run for more than three years. 

    READ MORE: China: 28 'terrorists' killed in Xinjiang operation

    Tuesday's shootout followed a challenge by security forces to a group of unknown men to identify themselves during an operation to comb through a forested area of Poso, which is more than 1,600km northeast of Jakarta, the capital.

    "Based on testimony from another suspect we had arrested, those two were identified as Uighurs," said central Sulawesi police spokesman Hari Suprapto, adding that authorities had notified the Chinese embassy in Jakarta.

    A Chinese embassy press official declined a Reuters news agency request for comment.

    Four other Uighur men were jailed last year for attempting to join the same network.

    Authorities say that they have cornered Santonso's group after the manhunt.

    "We have been successful in surrounding them. Their supplies have started to dwindle," chief security minister Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters last week.

    "We hope Santoso will surrender, but we are prepared for the worst-case scenario."

    Asked for an expected timeframe, he gave no details.

    Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Uighurs keen to escape unrest in their far western Chinese homeland of Xinjiang have travelled clandestinely via Southeast Asia to Turkey.

    China says that they often end up crossing into Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIL.

    Hundreds of people have been killed over the past few years in resource-rich Xinjiang, strategically located on the borders of Central Asia, in violence between Uighurs and ethnic majority Han Chinese.

    Beijing has blamed the unrest on religious fighters, though rights groups and exiles say anger at Chinese controls on the religion and culture of the Uighurs is more to blame. China denies any repression in Xinjiang.

     The plight of the Uighurs

    SOURCE: Reuters


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