Bomber behind 2 Bali bombings and embassy attack blows self up during police raid - threat of terrorism still remains
Bali bombmaker went to university in Australia
Bali bomber Azahari dead
THE most feared terrorist in Asia, Azahari bin Husin, the man responsible for the two Bali bombings and an attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta, has blown himself up after being cornered by police in East Java.
Indonesia's elite anti-terror squad Detachment 88 tracked Azahari down after months of surveillance. It is understood one of the master bomb-maker's acolytes inadvertently led police to the hideout. Police have hunted the elusive Malaysian militant since the 2002 Bali blasts, which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
Azahari and his Malaysian colleague Noordin Mohammed Top have been among the most wanted men in Asia, with Australian Federal Police assisting the Indonesian police in tracking them down.
A senior police officer close to the Azahari investigation said last night several informants had confirmed the dead man was Azahari.
Indonesia's national deputy detective chief, General Gorries Mere, said police believed the dead man was Azahari. "We suspect it is him," he said.
However, the officer said it would be some time before his death was confirmed because his body could have been blown to pieces.
Two of his companions also appeared to have blown themselves up, possibly using backpack bombs similar to those used last month in the latest Bali attacks, which killed 23 people, including the three suicide bombers.
A journalist at the site told Indonesian television that he had seen the dismembered body of Azahari. "The body was in pieces but his face could still be recognised by two members of the anti-terrorist unit from Jakarta," he said. "He blew himself up together with the house."
Several other people were reportedly arrested.
Azahari, who went to school and university in Adelaide, was wanted in connection with a string of attacks on Western targets that killed hundreds of people. These included the two Bali attacks, the bombing of the Marriott hotel in Jakarta in 2003 and the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta last year.
A senior leader of the terrorist network Jemaah Islamiah, he and Top planned and implemented the embassy bombing, even watching his handiwork from the back of a motorcycle.
One of his acolytes, Rois, told police Azahari received the money for the embassy bombing directly from Osama bin Laden.
The bespectacled 48-year-old was JI's top explosives expert and a master of disguise. He joined JI in the late 1990s and garnered his explosives expertise at al-Qa'ida training camps in Afghanistan.
Indonesian police were close to catching him in late 2003 but he slipped through the dragnet unrecognised. Police waited too long out of fear the pair were wearing explosive bomb belts.
According to the state news service Antara and Indonesian media reports, plainclothes police yesterday surrounded a building in Flamboyan Street, in the suburb of Batu in Malang.
Half an hour after the first shots were fired, about 3.30pm, bystanders heard a large explosion, according to Andi Kartiono, a witness who had previously rented the house where the terrorists had been hiding.
Two more explosions were heard and the gunfire continued until 5.30pm, Mr Kartiono said.
"That house was rented for the last three months by three students who said they were doing their papers," he told local television reporters. "They were all in their twenties."
Police told of a pitched gun battle with up to seven militants holed up inside. Some police officers were wounded, he said.
"They threw bombs and opened fire at us, injuring one policeman," a local detective told the Kyodo news agency.
Detachment 88 police had entered the house and saw at last two bodies but retreated when they came across several unexploded bombs. A police bomb squad was called to disarm the explosives before the bodies were removed and identified. A Detachment 88 source said the raid was linked to the October 1 triple suicide bombing on three cafes in Kuta and Jimbaran in Bali, which killed 23 people, including four Australians. "It has a link," he said.
Last night, local press reported that Indonesia's national police chief, General Sutanto, was on his way to Malang, along with the East Java military commander, Major-General Samsul Mappareppa.
Asia suspect may be dead but threat remains
By Heri Retnowati
BATU, Indonesia, Nov 10 (Reuters) - The apparent death of one of Southeast Asia's most wanted Islamic militants, Azahari Husin, was welcomed by security experts and Australia on Thursday but they said it would not eliminate the threat of radical violence.
Police believe Azahari blew himself up on Wednesday after a fierce shoot-out with security forces in the town of Batu in East Java province.
Authorities say the electronics expert designed and supervised the making of the car bomb which caused the most damage in 2002 attacks on the resort island of Bali which killed 202 people, including 88 Australians.
A bomb squad was clearing the way for his body and that of other dead militants to be removed on Thursday. "We are still looking. We found pieces of a bomb that could be used," Indonesian police chief General Sutanto told reporters.
He said police had seen three bodies in the rubble-filled house, but there could be more.
One had Azahari's physical features, "but we will match his fingerprints and DNA to make sure," Sutanto said, adding while the man's body had been blown apart his face was still intact.
Dubbed the "demolition man" by newspapers in his native Malaysia, Azahari was the suspected brains behind several bomb attacks on Western targets in Indonesia and the top bomb maker in Jemaah Islamiah, a shadowy network linked to al Qaeda.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, known for his caution, said identification could not be certain yet.
"We need laboratory evidence to make sure," Yudhoyono told reporters in Jakarta.
Ansyaad Mbai, who heads Indonesia's anti-terrorist coordinating board, said the group led by Azahari "is very significant" and Wednesday's actions "had reduced their capability".
"But when we talk holistically about terrorism, this is not the end. A movement with ideological and political motives won't die, even if the leading figure dies," he told Reuters.
Jemaah Islamiah will not be crippled by Azahari's death, but it will be a huge advance in the war on terrorism, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said.
"If (the death) is confirmed then it is a huge advance, but we are going to be embroiled in this struggle for years," he said.
THREAT DIMINISHED, NOT REMOVED
Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock said Azahari was believed to be an inspirational leader for Jemaah Islamiah, and hopefully his death "would diminish its capacity".
"But one ... can't assume that those that are left won't still have some residual capacity to continue," Ruddock said.
Nick Duder, president director of risk consultants Hill & Associates Indonesian operations, offered similar views.
"Obviously it's a great coup for the government to have had this success," he told Reuters. "But I think unfortunately it's one of these cases where there's probably many more in line after Azahari who are prepared to continue his work ... so we don't see the threat as being removed entirely, but diminished."
Police said that during the Wednesday shoot-out, the militants threw bombs and at the end the biggest bomb caused their deaths. One policeman was wounded by gunfire, they said.
In Batu, Anil Warman, 19, who lived across from the crime scene, told Reuters:
"I peeked from home and saw the door handle from the house on the other side fly to the front yard. I saw a motorcycle fall to the ground and pieces of human flesh scattered around it."
East Java province lies adjacent to Bali, where three suicide bombers killed 20 people on Oct. 1 in the latest attack.
(Additional reporting by Achmad Sukarsono, Harry Suhartono and Jerry Norton in Jakarta)
Australia welcomes likely death
Australia has accused Azahari, a Malaysian from the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaaah Islamiyah (JI) militant network and known as the "Demolition Man", of being behind several bombings which have killed Australians.
He and fellow Malaysian Noordin Mohammad Top are believed to have masterminded the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings which killed a total of 92 Australians, as well as the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta last year.
"Noordin Top and Azahari have been the two keys to these bombings by what we broadly define as Jemaah Islamiah in Indonesia, so to take either or both of them out is a very important step forward," Mr Downer said.
The Malaysian bomb expert apparently triggered a bomb killing himself and two others after police moved in on a villa in the East Java hill resort town of Batu, near Malang, yesterday.
Australian police have been helping the Indonesians track Azahari since the first Bali bombings and had a team close to the scene of the shootout that ended in his probable death, Police Commissioner Mick Keelty said.
"It appears that, and this comes as no surprise to us, that Azahari detonated a bomb when he was cornered by the police," Mr Keelty said.
"We've believed for some time that that would be one of his options, and two other people have been killed in that part of the operation.
"What we believe is that there's a cache of explosives in the safe house, the Indonesian national police have sealed off the scene and we had a forward group in the area - I don't want to say where they were.
"That forward group, which contains forensic people as well, will move in as well, and we'll set about working with the Indonesian national police who have done a fantastic job here."
Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said the Government was awaiting formal confirmation that Azahari was dead, But he said: "the Indonesian police are reasonably confident that they have located him and that he has taken his own life."
Confirmation of Husin's death would be a blow to Jemaah Islamiah, Mr Ruddock said.
"He was also said to be the inspirational leader who recruited people for the organisation, and hopefully that would diminish its capacity," he said.
"But one ought not to be, I think, blase about these matters, one can't assume that those that are left won't still have some residual capacity to continue the sort of activities we've seen them engaged in."
Mr Downer said the hunt would continue for Noordin Top.
"They're still looking for him and to the best of my knowledge they still don't know where he is," he said.
"There have been actually on quite a number of occasions sightings of both of them and there have been attacks to seize them on previous occasions, but so far without success.