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 Santoso could counterattack, warns police chief

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BerichtOnderwerp: Santoso could counterattack, warns police chief    zo 10 apr 2016 - 0:58

The Jakarta Post, Saturday, April 9 2016

The Central Sulawesi Police have warned civilians and security personnel alike to remain alert to the possibility of a counterattack from Indonesia's most wanted terrorist, Santoso, as Operation Tinombala enters its fourth month.

The operation, launched in January with the involvement of more than 3,500 Indonesian Military (TNI) and police personnel, has yet to lead to the capture of the terrorist also known as Abu Wardah.

Security personnel including military elite troops have combed the forested Napu Valley spanning four districts of Poso regency - North Lore, Central Lore, East Lore and Lore Peore - in search of Santoso and fellow members of the East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) group.

"Please stay cautious. We have to be aware of possible counterattacks from Santoso," Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Rudy Sufahriady told his subordinates in Poso on Friday.

The joint forces are believed to have cornered the group following the intensification of the search in the Napu Valley, but the fugitive remains on the loose.

"Given the difficult forest conditions, it is possible that Santoso has given our personnel the slip and re-entered Poso or Poso Pesisir," Rudy said.

Operation Tinombala personnel have also been following up villagers' reports of sightings of unknown men in the village of Sanginora in Poso Pesisir Selatan subdistrict; Rudy was unable to provide any further details.
Security authorities believe that Santoso's guerillas, who have pledged allegiance to the militant group Islamic State (IS), were previously hiding in Tamanjeka forest, on Mount Biru and in other parts of Poso Pesisir.

Operation Tinombala is a successor to similar joint operations ongoing since 2013.

Operations Camar Maleo I, II, III and IV were launched last year to no avail, although Santoso's right hand man, Daeng Koro aka Sabar Subagyo aka Antatrawa, was killed during a shootout in Parigi Moutong.

Operation Tinombala had so far led to the deaths or arrests of 10 members of the MIT. The group is now down to 29 people, including three women, Rudy said.

Operation leaders have blamed the local geography for the lack of success so far.

Deputy Central Sulawesi Police chief Sr. Cmr. Leo Bona Lubis said Santoso's hideaway was in primary forest spanning 7,000 kilometers of mountainous terrain.

"We see one mountain, but then behind that mountain there's another mountain, and another and another. It's tough terrain," Leo said.

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