By Keisyah Aprilia
Indonesian police said Friday that one of two suspected Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) militants killed in a security raid in Central Sulawesi province this week was the group’s second-most senior member who initially had been misidentified.
The slain suspect was Muhammad Busra, or Qatar, not Ahmad Gazali, provincial police spokesman Didik Supranoto said.
“They [Gazali and Qatar] looked alike. After identification it was clear that one of the slain men was Qatar,” Didik told BenarNews on Friday.
A joint military and police task force killed Qatar and Rukli, the second suspect, during a raid in the mountainous jungle of Parigi Moutong regency on Sunday, reducing MIT’s strength to seven members.
MIT is one of two pro-Islamic State groups operating in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country. The other is Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), which authorities have blamed for terror attacks in the archipelago nation during the past five years.
In May, police said MIT had split into two groups in an attempt to elude authorities, with one group led by Ali Kalora active in Sigi regency and the other under the leadership of Qatar operating in Poso.
Now that Qatar is dead, the four-man MIT faction led by Ali Kalora can surrender, said Brig. Gen. Farid Makruf, deputy commander of the operation to hunt down MIT insurgents, codenamed Madago Raya.
“Now we just have to wait for the time when Ali Kalora and his friends decide to get out of their jungle hideout and surrender,” Farid told BenarNews.
In May, Ali and his followers wanted to turn themselves in to the authorities but feared reprisals after another the faction led by Qatar threatened to kill their families, Farid said.
Didik said police would guarantee the safety of Ali, his followers and their families if they surrender.
Farid said intelligence suggested that Ali and Qatar had been at odds since the death of MIT founder Santoso, who was killed by security forces in 2016.
“In the Sunday, July 11 gunfight, one of three Qatar followers was shot and wounded. We hope that the three of them will also be arrested soon,” said Farid.
Qatar and Rukli were buried in a public cemetery in Palu on Wednesday, police said.
“After the autopsies were completed, the bodies were immediately buried,” said Didik, adding that police had taken DNA samples from them and notified their families in Bima.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Affandi, a researcher on terrorism at the Ruang Empat Kali Empat think-tank, said claims that Ali and his men wanted to surrender should be taken with a grain of salt.
“It could be just a trick in the hope that people believe that the Poso problem can be resolved soon,” Affandi told BenarNews.
“What about the families of the victims of the MIT’s terror? Will the government guarantee their security and welfare?
“How is the government going to protect and provide legal assistance to the families of people killed by task force members,” he asked, referring to three people killed in two incidents in Poso last year, allegedly by police and military personnel taking part in the operation to hunt MIT militants.