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September 18, 2009

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Terrorism mastermind Noordin Top shot dead

NOORDIN Muhammed Top, a militant mastermind who eluded capture for nine years and terrorized Indonesia with a string of deadly al-Qaida-funded bombings, was killed during a raid in central Indonesia, the country's police chief said yesterday.

Police hunting for suspects in Jakarta hotel bombings raided a hide-out in central Indonesia, sparking gunfire and an explosion yesterday that left four suspected militants dead, including Noordin, national police Chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri said. Three alleged terrorists also were captured.

Noordin's remains were found in the house on the outskirts of the town of Solo in central Java after the hours-long gunfight, he said.


Fingerprints of Noordin stored on a police database matched those of the body, Danuri said. DNA tests have not yet been conducted.

"It is Noordin M. Top," he told a nationally televised news conference to loud cheers from the audience. Documents and laptop computers confiscated from the house prove that Noordin "is the leader of al-Qaida in Southeast Asia," he said.

Hundreds of kilograms of explosives, M-16 assault rifles, grenades and bombs were removed from the house as ambulances shuttled away the dead and injured.

"We asked Noordin M. Top to surrender, but they kept firing," Danuri said. "That is how he died ... he even had bullets in his pockets."

Noordin, a Malaysian citizen, fled to Indonesia in 2002 amid a crackdown on Muslim extremists in Malaysia in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States. He was linked to bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali in 2002 and 2005 that together killed 222 people, mostly foreigners.

"The most dangerous terrorist in Southeast Asia has been put out of commission," said Jim Della-Giacoma, Southeast Asia project director for the International Crisis Group think tank.

"It would have been better if police had managed to arrest him alive, but it appears that this was not an option. Noordin's death does not mean an end to terrorism in Indonesia, though it has been dealt a significant blow."

Noordin, who is accused of heading a splinter group of the al-Qaida-funded regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah, has been implicated in every major attack in Indonesia since 2003, including a pair of suicide bombings at Jakarta's J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in July that killed seven people and wounded more than 50. He is also blamed for an earlier attack on the J.W. Marriott in 2003 and a bombing at the Australian Embassy in 2004.

A counterterrorism official said the militants killed included alleged bomb-maker Bagus Budi Pranato. The captured militants included a pregnant woman who is being treated at a hospital, national police spokesman Nanan Sukarna said.

Police tracked the seven suspects to the town of Solo and besieged a village house on its outskirts overnight.

The operation left behind a charred house with no roof and blown-out walls.


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