Indonesian Police Kill 2 MIT Suspects in Central Sulawesi

Keisyah Aprilia
Poso, Indonesia
2020-11-17
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id-militancy-mit-body620 Police officers carry a bag with the body of a suspected militant who was killed during a gunfight in Central Sulawesi province in Indonesia, Nov. 17, 2020.
[Photo courtesy Central Sulawesi Police]

Indonesian security forces shot dead two suspected members of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen militant group (MIT) during a gunfight in Central Sulawesi province on Tuesday, a police spokesman said.

The suspects, who were on a list of wanted people, opened fire at officers who tried to arrest them in Parigi Moutong regency, local police spokesman Didik Supranoto said.

“We managed to track the whereabouts of the two wanted persons. During the raid, the suspects fought back, resulting in a shootout that killed them,” Didik told BenarNews.

Police found a firearm with bullets, two home-made bombs, a GPS and a compass at the scene, he said.

Didik said the slain suspects, identified as Wahid, 28, and Aziz Arifin, 26, had joined the Islamic State-linked MIT two years ago and both had taken part in several attacks carried out by the group.

Their bodies were taken to the police hospital in the provincial capital, Palu, Didik said.

Wahid and Aziz had lived in West Bolano, a village in Parigi Moutong regency, after leaving their mountain hideout in neighboring Poso regency two months ago, the police spokesman said.

The Poso region is an MIT hotbed. In recent years, the group’s militants have been blamed for the killings of local farmers and other people.

Wahid and Aziz may have left their hideout to look for new recruits, said Muhammad Lukman Tahir, a terrorism observer from the State Islamic Institute of Palu.

“Their mission could have been to recruit new members, especially in the West Bolano village, Wahid’s hometown. He has many relatives there,” Lukman told BenarNews.

With the deaths of the two suspects, MIT’s membership has been reduced to 11, including its leader Ali Kalora, Central Sulawesi police chief Inspector Gen. Abdul Rakhman Baso said.

“We hope they can surrender and face the legal process,” he told reporters.

‘Shocked’

News of Wahid and Aziz's deaths took villagers in West Bolano, where Wahid is from, completely by surprise, said a local resident, Sugi Efendi.

"When Wahid was first included on the police wanted list, people in the West Bolano village were shocked, because he came from the village," Sugi told BenarNews.

“His death shocked us even more. I went to the same school as Wahid and he was my junior. People could hardly believe a quiet Wahid turned out to be an MIT member.”

The two suspects were killed by members of a police-military task force as part of Operation Tinombala, whose mission has been to hunt down MIT militants since January 2016, and has been renewed regularly.

Tinombala replaced another operation, Camar Maleo, which began in January 2015 and also targeted MIT militants.

Lukman, of the State Islamic Institute of Palu, questioned the efficacy of the Tinombala task force, which he said that Wahid and Aziz had eluded when they left Poso to go to the village in Parigi Moutong.

“This shows that the operation in Poso is not effective. Obviously people will think that the operation in Poso is not serious,” Lukman said.

Didik, the Central Sulawesi police spokesman, denied that the task force was ineffective, saying MIT members were familiar with Poso’s rugged terrain of forests and mountains where they hide out.

“They are familiar with the terrain there. They could take a route where there were no officers carrying out the operation,” Didik said.

The police are currently investigating how Wahid and Aziz managed to get to West Bolano village, Didik said.

He also said that the operation would continue until all MIT members are caught.

“The National Police Chief has emphasized that the operation will not be stopped until all members of MIT are eradicated from Poso,” Didik said.

Police said earlier this year that they had laid siege to what was left of MIT in their Poso hideout, and that it was a matter of time before they were captured.

In 2016, police killed MIT’s previous leader, Santoso, who was the first Indonesian militant to publicly pledge allegiance to the Islamic State extremist group.

Under Santoso, MIT drew recruits from other parts of Indonesia as well as from abroad, including at least six Uyghurs, Indonesian authorities said.

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