JAKARTA: Indonesian police said Sunday it could take two weeks to confirm the death of Asian terror mastermind Noordin Mohammed Top, who was reported killed in a dramatic standoff with police special forces. The Islamist was killed Saturday morning in a hail of gunfire and explosions from US-trained counter-terrorism forces who had surrounded his suspected hideout in remote Beji village, Central Java, according to local media.
The 17-hour siege of the farmhouse was the culmination of a series of raids and arrests of his accomplices, which uncovered a plot to attack President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s home outside Jakarta, police said.
Police called on people to remain vigilant and stressed their counter-terrorist operations were ongoing, as the military stepped up security for the president.
“We have optimized and increased security for him and his family,” military spokesman Sagom Tamboen said.
“Based on the police information that there is a cell group that wanted to attack RI-1 [Yudhoyono], then we act according to the situation.”
National police spokesman Nanan Soekarna said it could take two weeks to confirm whether Noordin was killed as heavily armed police riddled the squat farmhouse with bullets and explosions on Saturday morning.
“The whole process of DNA testing will take two weeks. It’s a standard procedure,” he said.
“The test is being conducted at the Kramat Jati police hospital,” he added, referring to a hospital in Jakarta where the body of the militant found in the farmhouse was taken after the siege.
National Police Chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri said on Saturday that the identification process would take less than a week.
Noordin, 40, a Malaysian Islamist, has been blamed for multiple terror attacks against “iconic” Western targets in Indonesia, which have killed around 50 people and injured hundreds since 2003.
The latest were believed to have been the July 17 twin suicide bombings on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in the capital, which killed seven people including six foreigners, plus the two bombers.
A member of the Jemaah Islamiah regional terror group responsible for the 2002 Bali attacks which killed more than 200 people, he split to form his own even more violent network to “defend Islam” from perceived injustice.
The self-proclaimed leader of “al-Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago” was one of Asia’s most wanted men and had a $100,000 bounty on his head from the Indonesian government, who saw him as public enemy number one.
The police raid on his suspected hideout overshadowed other operations including the arrest of five of Noordin’s alleged accomplices and the uncovering of a major bomb factory in Bekasi, outside Jakarta.
Two would-be suicide bombers were shot dead by police Saturday morning at their rented house in Bekasi as they tried to resist arrest, police said.
Police Chief Danuri said they had rigged a small truck as a bomb and were planning to launch a suicide attack against Yudhoyono’s main residence, which is a 12-minute drive away.
The attack had been planned to take place around Indonesia’s Independence Day on August 17, and had been ordered by Noordin during a meeting on April 30 as revenge for the execution of the Bali bombers late last year, Danuri said.
Police have come close to arresting Noordin several times in the past and have captured or killed some of his closest associates during a six-year manhunt.
Analysts said his death would be a blow to his network, estimated to number as few as 30 hardcore cadres, but would not end the terror threat in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
“Every time there was an attack, there were new accomplices,” Institute for International Peacebuilding researcher Taufik Andrie said.
“There are several people who have the potential to replace Noordin.”
He said he doubted the reports that Noordin had been killed.
“The dead guy doesn’t seem to be Noordin. He has impeccable instincts for evading police raids,” he said.