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Asia-pacific

Police have killed prime suspect in hotel bombing, say local TV

Video by Catherine VIETTE

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-08-08

Local TV is reporting that one of South Asia's most wanted men, Noordin Top, who is suspected of masterminding last month's deadly hotel attacks in Jakarta, has been killed in a police raid.

AFP - Asian terror suspect Noordin Mohammed Top was killed during a raid on his hideout by heavily armed counter-terrorism police in Indonesia Saturday, local television reported.

The television station did not disclose its sources and police have not confirmed the report, which came as ambulances arrived at the suspected hideout following a 17-hour siege involving heavy gunfire and explosions.

A witness said that two body bags were taken from the house.

Elite police carrying assault rifles entered the house in Central Java after it had been besieged as part of investigations into last month's twin suicide bombings on hotels in the capital Jakarta.

Meanwhile, authorities said two would-be suicide bombers had been killed in a linked raid near Jakarta.

Police had earlier set off explosions at the house and fired repeated volleys from their assault rifles into the property in a dramatic conclusion to the standoff, which started at around 4:00 pm on Friday.

A police spokesman earlier said four or five people were believed to be in the house, but he would not confirm that they included Noordin.

In an operation linked to the ongoing counter-terror operation in Central Java, two would-be suicide bombers who were weeks away from launching a car bomb attack were killed during a police raid near Jakarta early Saturday, the Indonesian police chief said.

National police chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri said the two men were shot dead as they were about to detonate hand-made bombs during the raid, which uncovered a cache of explosive material and a car rigged as a bomb.

He said the house in Bekasi, outside Jakarta, was being used as a base by a "cell of NMT," referring to Noordin, wanted over multiple suicide bombings in Indonesia.

"We had to shoot them because at the time of the raid they had hand-held bombs that were about to be thrown at the police," he said, identifying the suspects as Air Setiawan and Eko Gepeng.

"They were would-be bridegrooms (suicide bombers) with special targets for attacks to be carried out two weeks from now... This place was a cell of NMT."

Danuri said the raid was linked to the counter-terror operation in Central Java.

The would-be bombers had been "accomplices" in the Australian embassy attack of 2004, when a massive suicide car bomb was detonated outside the embassy in central Jakarta, killing 10 people and wounding scores more, he said.

The house had been booby-trapped and police found a 100-kilogram bomb inside as well as Tupperware containers used for bomb-making.

"There was also a vehicle that had been prepared as a mobile bomb to be used in the next two weeks. I can't disclose the target right now," he told reporters at a press conference.

Malaysian Islamist Noordin, 40, was one of the most wanted alleged terrorists in Asia.

He was blamed for multiple suicide bombings in Indonesia which have killed more than 40 people since 2003.

Noordin was a member of the Jemaah Islamiyah regional terror movement responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings which killed more than 200 people, but split around 2003 to form his own militant group, analysts said.

He was wanted over suicide bombings on the JW Marriott in Jakarta in 2003, the Australian embassy in 2004 and tourist restaurants in Bali in 2005.

Friday's raid follows twin suicide attacks on the Marriott and the adjacent Ritz-Carlton hotel in Jakarta on July 17, which killed seven people including three Australians, as well as the two bombers.

An Internet blog purportedly signed by Noordin has claimed responsibility for the hotel attacks, but the authenticity of the statement has not been confirmed.

Police have come close to arresting Noordin several times in the past and have captured or killed some of his closest associates during the six-year manhunt.

Days after the July 17 attacks a woman believed to be his third wife was arrested, also in Central Java.

Date created : 2009-08-08

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