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Indonesian troops kill Al Qaeda-linked militant

Noordin Mohammad Top was a key fugitive in a string of suicide bombings in Indonesia.

September 18, 2009|Associated Press

SOLO, INDONESIA — Special forces raided a hide-out Thursday and killed militant leader Noordin Mohammad Top, striking at the heart of the terrorist network behind a deadly campaign of suicide attacks in Indonesia, including bombings of nightclubs in Bali.

Besides knocking out one of Southeast Asia's most-wanted fugitives, the operation also killed a man believed to have designed explosives for twin suicide bombings in July at hotels in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital.

Noordin, 41, had eluded capture for more than seven years. He was tracked down to a house in the city of Solo in central Java, a breeding ground for militant Islam, where an overnight siege and hours-long gunfight ended at dawn with an explosion.

Four bodies were recovered from the burned-out house, including that of Noordin and an alleged explosives expert, Bagus Budi Pranato, who was believed to have made the bombs used in the July 17 attacks on the J.W. Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels that killed nine people and wounded more than 50.

Neighbors said the property was rented five months ago by a young couple who were teaching at a nearby Islamic school. The husband was among those killed. His wife was wounded but was in stable condition.

The target was Noordin, a Malaysian citizen and feared regional leader of Al Qaeda with links to Osama bin Laden, said national Police Chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri.

Documents and laptop computers confiscated from the house confirmed that Noordin "is the leader of Al Qaeda in Southeast Asia," Danuri said. Police also recovered hundreds of pounds of explosives, as well as assault rifles and grenades.

Noordin's fingerprints matched those of one of the bodies, Danuri said. DNA tests had not yet been conducted.

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