Indonesian Police killed two Islamic militants during a shootout in a the jungle on Indonesia's Sulawesi island on Monday evening (18/07). Reportedly - but not confirmed yet by authorities - one of these militants is Indonesia's most wanted Islamic militant Abu "Santoso" Wardah, an Islamic State supporter and leader of the East Indonesia Mujahidin terrorist cells. This group's "headquarters" are believed to be located in the jungle surrounding Poso (Central Sulawesi).
An Indonesian Police spokesman told reporters that police had killed two Islamic militants that were hiding in the jungle of Sulawesi. One of these men has facial characteristics similar to Santoso. Indonesian authorities will now conduct forensic tests to determine whether indeed Santoso has been killed. Santoso, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group, has been chased by Indonesia's police and Indonesia's special counter-terrorism squad Densus 88 for years.
Indonesia has a long history of Islamism. Initially, Indonesian militants directed their attacks toward symbols of the western world (the 2002/2005 Bali bombings and the 2003/2009 JW Marriott and Ritz Carlton hotel bombings in Jakarta). But there occurred a shift after Densus 88 achieved considerable success in combating terrorist groups in the country. After Densus 88 found and cleared a militant training camp in a remote mountainous jungle in Aceh in 2010, those militants that escaped changed their tactics. Indonesia's terrorist cells are now operating in smaller networks than before (making it more difficult to trace them) and redirected their terrorist acts from symbols of the West to symbols of the Indonesian state (for example police offers).
Santoso was one of the militants that managed to escape after the break-up of the Aceh training camp in 2010. He fled to Sulawesi (in the region near Poso) where he led the East Indonesia Mujahidin terrorist cell (in Indonesian: Mujahidin Indonesia Timur, or MIT). This militant group carried out numerous kidnappings and killings over the past couple of years, specifically directed at Indonesian security forces.
The Poso region became the center of Indonesia's Tinombala operation, the operation that aims to capture Santoso and his East Indonesia Mujahidin terrorist group. More than 2,500 security forces personnel, including elite army troops, intensified their operations in 2016.
Indonesia's special counter-terrorism squad, Detachment 88 (Densus 88) was established in 2003 and has had considerable success in weakening the Jema'ah Islamiyah network, a Southeast Asian militant group dedicated to the establishment of a caliphate in Southeast Asia.