Asian terror suspect slips away

WONOSOBO, Indonesia – One of Southeast Asia’s most-wanted militants escaped a raid on his suspected hideout Saturday, but two of his accomplices were killed during an hourlong shootout, police said.

Noordin Top, regarded as a key leader of the al-Qaida-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah, was not in the safe house in Central Java province when a heavily armed, elite anti-terror unit arrived before dawn, deputy police spokesman Brig. Anton Bachrul Alam said.

Noordin, seen as his group’s key strategist and one of its main recruiters, has eluded capture for years, several times escaping hours before police arrived at his hideout.

Explosives found in the safe house Saturday were removed and defused, Alam said, and the bodies of the slain militants taken away for autopsies. Police arrested two suspects, identified only as Solahudin and Mustafirin, who allegedly participated in a failed attempt to attack a Jakarta shopping mall in 2001.

Security forces started staking out the house in the village of Binangun three months ago after receiving a tip that Noordin was hiding there, “but when they launched their raid at around 3 a.m., he was gone,” Alam told el-Shinta radio Saturday.

Residents said they heard gunfire and explosions around 5 a.m. and saw helicopters flying overhead. Black-clad anti-terror forces fired machine guns and hurled grenades before moving in on a one-story building where the men were hiding, witnesses said.

Roads leading to the house were blocked and ambulances waited nearby.

A single, barefooted suspect was led from the scene, his hands cuffed behind his back.

Sutanto said in Jakarta that the men killed in the raid were Abdul Hadi, also known as Bambang, and Jabir. Many Indonesians use only a single name.

Sutanto said Jabir assembled the bombs used in deadly attacks in Jakarta at the Australian Embassy in 2004, which killed 11 people and wounded 200, and a 2003 car bombing at a J.W. Marriott hotel that killed 12. Abdul Hadi helped recruit suicide bombing candidates, he said.

“The slain terrorists were the main perpetrators in several terrorist acts. They have bomb-making capabilities,” Sutanto said. “In the safe house we found handmade bombs and documents.”

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