asia

2 militants linked to Philippine church blast shot dead


JAKARTA • Two Indonesian militants linked to a church blast in the Philippines in 2019 have been shot dead by police, the authorities said yesterday, as officers arrested scores of radicals who support the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group.

The shootings came as Indonesia’s counter-terrorism squad, Densus 88, raided a hideout of extremist group Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) in Sulawesi’s Makassar city, officials said.

Two suspects were gunned down when they “resisted arrest” and attacked officers, police said, adding that a third suspect suffered gunshot injuries and was being treated in hospital. Another 17 militants were detained.

Police said later that the two dead suspects were involved in financing the Philippines’ worst terror attack in years, which killed 21 and injured scores more in 2019.

“The two were involved in transferring money to the bombers of the church in Jolo, Philippines,” national police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan told reporters, without elaborating.

In early 2019, two explosions ripped through a Catholic church on the Philippines’ Muslim-majority island of Jolo, killing worshippers at Sunday mass and security forces – raising fears about growing links between militants in South-east Asia.

ISIS had claimed responsibility for the cathedral blast, saying two suicide bombers detonated explosive belts.

The pair were later identified as an Indonesian militant and his wife.

The Jolo attack was carried out days after voters approved expanding Muslim self-rule in the south aimed at ending a decades-old rebellion for independence or autonomy for the sizeable Islamic minority of the mainly Catholic Philippines.

Police said the two men shot dead were members of the JAD, a local terror network which has pledged allegiance to ISIS and its violent ideology. Members of JAD staged a wave of suicide bombings at churches in Indonesia’s second-biggest city Surabaya in 2018, killing a dozen congregants.

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Meanwhile, the Indonesian authorities are still on the hunt for a group of terrorists who killed four Christians in November in Central Sulawesi province.

The terrorist group of 11 men from the extremist Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) had also pledged allegiance to ISIS.

MIT is led by Ali Kalora. He took over the leadership from Santoso, who was once Indonesia’s most-wanted terrorist. Santoso was killed in July 2016 after a massive manhunt.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE





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