Two men killed in a firefight with security forces in Sulawesi have been identified as members of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) militant group, local officials said Tuesday.
The gunbattle took place a day earlier when soldiers on a routine patrol encounted armed men in a mountainous area of Poso regency so remote that civilians can reach it only after a four-day walk from the nearest village, officials said.
Two were shot dead while the other men escaped, said Arif Darmawan, head of the Central Sulawesi Police Mobile Brigade Unit. One soldier was wounded, he said.
Central Sulawesi police chief Rudy Sufahriadi on Tuesday identified the two dead men as MIT members Barok, 38, and Askar, 30, of Bima, West Nusa Tenggara.
They were identified by MIT members who were captured in recent months, police said, and their bodies were taken to Bhayangkara Hospital in Palu, where DNA samples would be taken in hopes of locating their relatives.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who was in Palu on Tuesday to open a congress of the Indonesian Islamic Students Movement, instructed security forces to find the members of the banned outfit still at large.
Hundreds of security personnel have been on the ground in Poso regency since January 2015 in two joint army-police operations code-named Camar Maleo and Tinombala.
“(The president) expressed appreciation for the personnel of Tinombala Task Force and communicated that we should focus on finding the remaining (suspects),” Rudy told reporters in the provincial capital.
More than a dozen MIT members, including its leader, Santoso, were killed as a result of the operations in 2016, officials said. Santoso swore allegiance to the Islamic State terror group in an audio recording released by the MIT in July 2014.
Analysts had described MIT as a remnant of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the al-Qaeda-linked network responsible for the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings that killed hundreds.