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Indonesia's most wanted terrorist killed

Santoso's group responsible for string of lethal attacks on domestic security forces

After a manhunt which lasted several years, Indonesia finally managed to kill its most wanted terrorist.

Santoso, the leader of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen and a supporter of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was killed in a gunfight with troops in Poso, Central Sulawesi, on Monday night, AFP reported.

Operation Tinombala began in January with the goal of capturing Santoso and his guerillas who have been hiding in the mountainous forests of Poso, the Jakarta Post reported.

The operation involving over 3,500 joint personnel had narrowed the group's location. Santoso's followers are reportedly down to 14 from an initial 45, following arrests and shoot-outs with security personnel.

The extremist, known by several aliases including Abu Wardah, was killed alongside one other militant. Police said the pair were killed beside a river and a rifle was recovered.

Two women, one of whom was suspected to be Santoso's wife, and another man, escaped from the gunfight.

His death is a major victory for the authorities who had pursued him for five years, sending thousands of security forces to hunt for him.

His group carried out a string of deadly attacks on domestic security forces and was known for training militants from around the archipelago. In 2014, he pledged allegiance to ISIS and earlier this year, the US placed him on a list of global terrorists.

"The group is obviously weakened now that we got the leader," national police chief Tito Karnavian told reporters, as he confirmed the militant's death.

EXTREMISTS

He said the country's extremists had wanted to transform the Poso district, where Santoso and his followers were based, into a "safe haven" and a regional power base.

"With this group broken, the hope for a base there is gone," he added.

After Indonesia suffered a string of extremist attacks in the early 2000s, including the 2002 Bali bombings which killed more than 200, the authorities launched a crackdown that weakened the most dangerous networks.

But Santoso's group remained a thorn in the side of the government, with the long-haired, gun-toting militant regularly appearing in videos urging extremists to launch attacks.

The picture has changed recently, with other cells now considered a greater threat - Santoso was not believed to have played a role in an ISIS-claimed attack in Jakarta in January that left four attackers and four civilians dead.

Santoso also attracted militants from abroad, with several members of China's mostly Muslim Uighur minority travelling to Indonesia to join his group.

Unfortunately, security experts believe Santoso's death would not undermine support for ISIS in Indonesia, Reuters reported.

indonesiaISISattackSANTOSOOPERATION TINOMBALAPOSOgunfirehuntsecurity forces