Local media in Indonesia report the mastermind of the double terrorist attacks in Jakarta three weeks ago has been killed during a raid in the center of Java island. He was the most wanted man in the Muslim-dominated archipelago, and his death, if confirmed, would be a big breakthrough in the fight against terrorism there.
Police say they are trying to identify a body found in the house in rural Central Java after a long gunbattle ended Saturday morning. Some reports say one of at least two bodies removed from the house is that of Noordin Mohammad Top.
Noordin, a Malaysian native, has been the most wanted man in Indonesia for the past six years. He has been linked to terror attacks in Indonesia and to the al-Qaida-linked regional group, Jemaah Islamiyah.
Noordin's group has been implicated in the July 17 attacks on the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta, which killed nine people and wounded more than 50.
He narrowly escaped arrest several times in the past years, but terrorism expert Sidney Jones from the International Crisis Group, says this time the Indonesian police has finally managed to capture its long-standing nemesis.
"I think he has been killed, I got several confirmations from the police. It doesn't mean the end of terrorism in Indonesia because even if you got the whole gang that was involved in the Marriott bomb it still wouldn't mean that you had eliminated terrorism from Indonesia. But it's a huge step forward," said Jones.
Indonesian anti-terrorism forces besieged the little house in central Java were Noordin was believed to be hiding for 17 hours. They launched a separate raid early Saturday in the Jakarta area, 400 kilometers away. Security officials say they found 500 kilograms of explosives that they believe were to be used to make a car bomb for another terror attack.
Sidney Jones says the double raids confirm the high efficiency of the Indonesian anti-terrorism police.
"I think there was a lot of unnecessary disparaging in the weeks that followed the 17 of July bombings. But I think the police deserves praise for getting Noordin less than a month after the bombing took place," said Jones.
Last month's bombings were a shock for Indonesians who believed terrorism had been uprooted in the country because there had been no attacks for four years. But Jones says the swiftness of police actions shows that Indonesian anti-terror policies are on the right track.