Indonesia police say they thwarted terrorist plan to assassinate president

B EJI, Indonesia | The police in Indonesia said Saturday that they had foiled plans by an Islamist group to assassinate the president. However, authorities declined to confirm news reports that they had killed Southeast Asia’s most-wanted terrorism suspect in a separate raid.

Police said that until DNA tests were complete, they could not confirm that the body recovered from a house in central Java was that of Noordin Mohammad Top.

Noordin is suspected of having planned Southeast Asia’s worst terror attacks, some with al-Qaida backing. If verified, his death would be a major victory in Indonesia’s fight against Islamist militants blamed for five major bombings that killed 250 people, including attacks on Bali island in 2002 and 2005. Noordin also is blamed for suicide bomb attacks last month on two hotels in Jakarta that killed seven people.

National Police Chief Bambang Hendarso Danuri said Noordin and other militants had been plotting to bomb the home of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Hendarso said an accomplice told the police that two would-be suicide bombers were planning to detonate a truck packed with explosives at the president’s home later this month. Hendarso said a truck with explosives was found, along with bomb-making material.

A leading expert on terrorism, Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group, said she doubted reports that Noordin had been killed in a 16-hour raid on a militant hideout outside Jakarta.

As confused and contradictory reports emerged, it remained unclear whether Noordin had been in the house at the time of the raid, whether he had escaped or whether he had possibly been arrested beforehand.

“What we do know is that the police intercepted this (assassination attempt), and they get incredible kudos for that,” Jones said.

But as to the raid on the house outside Jakarta, she said: “What I’m pretty convinced of is that the person inside the house was not Noordin Top and the person who was killed was not Noordin Top.”

Hendarso tried to dampen the rumors.

“We could not yet disclose the identity of the killed man,” he said. “After the DNA test, we will announce it, based on facts, not based on speculation.”

The two suspects killed in the second raid, in the West Java town of Bekasi, were believed to be linked to Noordin.

Irwan Firdaus of The Associated Press and Seth Mydans of The New York Times contributed to this report.
Posted on Sat, Aug. 08, 2009 10:15 PM


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