JAKARTA, Indonesia - Indonesian police raided a house near the capital yesterday, shooting dead two suspected Al Qaeda-linked militants wanted in the suicide bombings of luxury hotels in Jakarta, officials said.
The suspects threw pipe bombs at arresting officers, but no one was harmed in the blasts. A third alleged Islamist militant detained earlier yesterday led police to the hide-out at a student boarding house on the outskirts of Jakarta, said Nanan Sukarna, national police spokesman.
One of the dead men, Syaiffudin Zuhri, is believed to have recruited two young bombers for the July 17 strikes on the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton. He is also said to have been a leading member of a terrorist cell run by the late Malaysian terror mastermind Noordin Top.
Specialists said that the killings were a blow to terror groups operating in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation but that capturing them alive might have helped round up other terrorists.
Police raided the house in Tangerang district about 12 miles southwest of Jakarta, and fought a gun battle with those inside that lasted for about an hour. Several pipe bombs were seized.
Zuhri and his brother, Mohamad Syahrir, were killed by police gunfire, Sukarna said.
The July 17 explosions killed seven people and wounded more than 50, ending a four-year pause in terrorist attacks in Indonesia.
Documents in a laptop computer found with Noordin’s body after a raid in central Java last month said Zuhri joined an Al Qaeda-affiliated group called Salafi Jihadi during his studies in Yemen. Since 2005 he held a prominent position in Noordin’s group, Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad, which called itself the Al Qaeda of Indonesia. Police believe Zuhri sought funding overseas for terrorist attacks in Indonesia.
Jim Della-Giacoma, Southeast Asia director of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group think tank, said the raid was a blow to Indonesian militants, though Zuhri’s killing could also be a missed opportunity to gain intelligence.
“Noordin’s network has been decapitated, or really effectively reduced,’’ Della-Giacoma said. “The problem is we don’t know how big the network was or if there were future plans or other cells. When suspects are killed, you lose the opportunity to connect the dots and follow those.’’