Indonesian security forces say they have killed a hardline leader with ties to the ISIL (ISIS) group in a shoot-out on Saturday, amid a sweeping counterterrorism campaign in remote areas of the archipelago.
A joint operation by military and police personnel killed Ali Kalora of the East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) in a village on eastern Sulawesi island late on Saturday, according to Central Sulawesi’s regional military chief Brigadier General Farid Makruf.
“Ali Kalora was the most wanted terrorist and leader of MIT,” Makruf said.
Another hardliner, identified as Jaka Ramadhan, also known as Ikrima, was also shot dead, police said, adding that a hunt was under way for four other members of the group.
Explosives, an M16 rifle and two machetes were also found.
Kalora had eluded capture for more than 10 years.
He took over the leadership of MIT after security forces killed its previous head, Santoso. MIT pledged allegiance to ISIL in 2014.
Ridwan Habib, a terrorism analyst with the University of Indonesia, said the Sulawesi-based MIT group was unlikely to survive its leader’s death, although he suspected the members who are on the run would continue to fight security forces.
“Part of their ideology is seeking death because they believe death will take them to heaven. With their leader dead, they will seek death as well,” he told Reuters. “I’m not sure there will be a re-establishment [of MIT] or a new leader elected.”
MIT has claimed responsibility for several killings of police officers and minority Christians. In May, MIT killed four Christians in a village in Poso district, including one who was beheaded. Authorities said the attack was revenge for the killing in March of two members of the group, including Santoso’s son.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, has stepped up surveillance and cracked down on hardline groups since 2002, when bombings on Bali, a popular resort island, killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.
Police last month arrested 53 people suspected of planning an attack on Indonesia’s independence day.