Indonesian security forces Wednesday captured a senior figure of an ISIS-linked militant network -once headed by the country’s most wanted extremist- in a joint operation with the military, police said.
Muhammad Basri, from the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen, was caught in Poso district, on rugged Sulawesi island, while another member of the group was shot dead.
“He was caught on Poso’s south coast this morning,” police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told Agence France Presse, adding he had been taken to a nearby city.
Amar said the man shot dead was Andika Eka Putra.
The capture of Basri is another blow to the militant group, based in the jungles of Sulawesi province. The group’s leader, Santoso, who was Indonesia’s most wanted radical, was killed by security forces in a shootout in July, ending a years-long hunt for the ISIS group supporter.
His death was a major victory for the authorities. Santoso and his group were responsible for deadly attacks on domestic security forces and had trained militants from around the archipelago.
Basri had been the deputy leader of the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen, which has been hiding out in the jungles of Sulawesi for years but now has just a handful of members.
He was seen as a successor to Santoso, although it is not clear if he had officially taken over leadership of the group.
After Indonesia suffered a string of extremist attacks in the early 2000s, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people, authorities launched a crackdown that weakened the most dangerous networks.
But Santoso repeatedly evaded attempts to capture or kill him, with the long-haired, gun-toting militant regularly appearing in videos urging extremists to launch attacks.
The capacity of Indonesia’s militant groups to carry out deadly attacks has been significantly weakened by the crackdown.
But Indonesians who traveled to Syria to fight with ISIS have directed and funded attacks from abroad, including a suicide bombing and gun attack in Jakarta in January that killed eight people, including four militants.