The last Uyghur member of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) – a militant group allied with the extremist group Islamic State (IS) – was killed in a shootout with security forces in Central Sulawesi province on Wednesday, a police official said.
The shootout started soon after members of a task force spotted two men during a patrol at Kilo, a village in Poso regency, Central Sulawesi Police Chief Brig. Gen. Rudy Sufahriadi said. When officers shouted out for a code word, the two men responded by shooting and throwing homemade bombs at the security forces.
“One of the two members of the MIT was shot and killed on the spot, while another escaped with an M-16,” Rudy told reporters in Palu, the provincial capital. He added that the security forces were pursuing the second man.
“From information received from my staff at the ground, based on their investigation, the one killed is MIT member, a Uyghur named Ibrohim,” he added.
Ibrohim’s body was to be taken to a military hospital in Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province, to complete the identification process.
Ibrohim, who had been on a list of wanted persons, joined MIT in mid-2015 with five other Uyghurs – all of whom have since been killed in gun battles with Indonesian security personnel – according to police. The six had taken part in acts of terror around Poso, including the killing of two local farmers in September 2015, police said.
Uyghurs are members of a Muslim minority in China who mostly live in the northwestern Xinjiang region. They also are spread across Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Turkey.
Some Uyghurs have been accused of being involved in militant groups and committing acts of terrorism.
The task force was taking part in Operation Tinombala, which began in January and involves hundreds of police officers and military personnel, and whose goal is to capture or kill MIT’s remaining members.
The operation claimed its biggest prize about a month ago when members killed MIT leader Santoso (alias Abu Wardah), who ranked No. 1 on Indonesia’s list of most wanted militants.
Police believe that MIT has weakened following his death in a shootout with security forces in Poso on July 18. The number of surviving members hiding in the forests and mountains of Poso is believed to be 14, including two women.
“Their weaponry is also weakening. Based on the intelligence information, they have only five rifles, some homemade weapons and homemade bombs,” Rudy, the province’s police chief, said.
Central Sulawesi Gov. Longki Djanggola has urged the remaining MIT members to surrender.
“I’ve spoken directly with the national police chief on the continuation of the operation in Poso. It will continue until the MIT followers hiding in Poso are caught,” Longki said.
Last week, Rudy coordinated with the National Commission on Human Rights to form a 13-member team of non-military professionals tasked with persuading the MIT members to surrender.