Noordin Mohammed Top, Asia’s most wanted terrorist, committed suicide after a 12-hour standoff with Indonesian police in a remote farm house in Central Java.
Police made visual confirmation of Top through cameras attached to remote control robots that were deployed into the house and watched as he fled into a bathroom and, surrounded by a woman and three children, blew himself up, Metro TV reported. The explosion occurred at 8 AM Saturday local-time (9 PM EDT Friday) and was carried on live television.
Top was a senior leader in Jemaah Islamiyah and was originally from Malaysia. He was known as a top recruiter, strategist, and fundraiser, and was behind the most deadly terror attacks in Indonesia. He masterminded the October 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people and injured 209; the August 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta; the September 2004 bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta; and the October 2005 Bali bombings. He split from Jemaah Islamiyah in late 2005 after disagreement over the use of violence with other leaders and became the emir of Tandzim al-Qaedat Indonesia. While ties between Top’s group and al Qaeda have not yet been confirmed, his group has run Web forums that have collaborated with Jihadi forums known to be associated with al Qaeda. One such forum released an Indonesian-language propaganda video with the well-known al-Ekhlaas Forum in early 2008.
Indonesia’s elite counterterrorism police unit Detachment 88 (Densus 88) descended on the farm house in Temanggung village late Thursday night after receiving multiple tips that Top had recently rented it. The house was quietly put under surveillance and police tracked people who came and went from the residence. By Friday afternoon, police had detained five terror suspects, according to Detik News. Interrogations confirmed that Top was indeed there.
Approximately 15 Densus 88 personnel, including snipers, secured the neighborhood and surrounded the house Friday evening. They called for the remaining suspects to give up. After firing a warning shot on the house at 7:15 PM Friday evening, a shootout ensued. Based on sporadic shots being fired from inside the house, police sources told Detik News that the suspects appeared to be low on ammunition and possibly had only two long barreled weapons, including an AK-47. However, the police were concerned about the risk of booby traps and kept a safe distance from the house.
At 6:30 AM, police were able to shoot out one of the house’s two doors and deployed cameras mounted on remote control robots. Live television coverage on Metro TV showed police storm the house to deploy the robots and then promptly retreat. A small explosion was seen inside the house, which shattered the windows.
Densus 88 was able to make a visual confirmation of Top and also revealed the presence of three children and a woman believed to be their grandmother, Kompas reported. Sources also told local media that Top was suffering from gunshot wounds.
At approximately 8 AM, a large explosion blew a hole in the roof. Police followed with sustained gun fire for 15 minutes targeting the location of the bathroom. A police source told Metro TV that Top was seen on the robot cameras retreating into a bathroom with the woman and children. He was then seen detonating a bomb. All four were killed instantly.
Five Densus 88 officers entered the house once the smoke cleared. After the police entered the home a total of five explosions were seen and sporadic gunfire was heard. By 10 AM, police erected yellow tape around the house, signaling that the location had been secured.
Top’s death has not been officially confirmed by Indonesian police.
Raid in Jatiasih
In a separate operation on Friday evening, Densus 88 raided a safe house near Jakarta in Bekasi and disrupted planned major attacks on Istana Merdeka, the presidential palace, and the president’s official residence in Cikeas, a suburb of Bogor, which is two hours south of the capital. The raid followed the capture of a Daihatsu Xenia minivan that carried a 500 Kg bomb.
Two suspected terrorists, Air Setyawan (28) and Eko Peyang (21), attempted to flee the safehouse and were shot by police. Both men died after being taken to the hospital. Both men have been associated with recent terrorist attacks and activities. Setyawan was involved in the 2004 attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta while Peyang had become Top’s main bombmaker, According to Detik News.
The raid netted five barrels of bomb making materials and three suicide bombs encased in Tupperware. The bombs and the explosives are of the same make as the July 17 Mega Kuningan attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotels, authorities reported. Sources also reported that “many documents” were also discovered, including addresses of suspected cell members and conspirators in Bekasi and also in East Java.
The house had recently been rented to Ahmad Ferry and Amir Abdullah, who is also known as Amir Ibrohim. The safe house was situated only five kilometers from the presidential residence in Cikeas.
The two men are two suspects in the July 17 Mega Kuningan attacks. Abdullah rented room 1808 in the JW Marriott hotel in his name, which was used as an operational base for the attacks on the Marriott and the Ritz Carlton hotel and where authorities discovered an active but undetonated bomb.
Jakarta police spokesman Irjen Wahyono told reporters that the capture of Amir Abdullah broke the case, according to Detik News. “He was captured in north Jakarta two days ago,” Wahyono said. “From this arrest we were led to Jatiasih.”
Abdullah tipped police that Ferry had traveled to Solo, Central Java, to pick up the Daihatsu minivan and the bomb. He was captured Friday night while returning to the safe house. Abdullah also revealed to authorities the identities of the Kuningan suicide bombers – Dani Dwi Permana, from Bogor, and the Ritz Carlton bomber as Nana Ichwan Maulana, from Pandeglang, Banten. Dani reportedly signed on to become a suicide bomber “out of frustration” after failing his exams. Family and friends said he disappeared two months ago.
Police are hunting for a suspect identified by the initials “SS.” He is believed to have fled to Solo in Central Java.