Indonesian security forces hunting for a suspected al Qaeda-linked militant bomb-maker accused of masterminding last month’s suicide attacks against two luxury hotels in Jakarta were locked in a gun battle Friday, according to police.
A police spokesman confirmed to CNN that members of Indonesia’s elite Detachment 88 anti-terror unit were engaged in a firefight following a raid on a house in Temanggung, central Java, 500 kilometers southeast of Jakarta. But the spokesman would not confirm local media reports suggesting that Noordin Top — the suspected leader of a splinter faction of the al Qaeda-linked militant group Jemaah Islamiyah — or any of his associates had been arrested. “We cannot confirm who was in the house or which group they belong to at this time as we are awaiting reports from the field,” the spokesman said. Witnesses told Indonesian television that they could still hear gunshots and that the area around the house remained blocked.
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The security forces launched the raid on the house after two people believed to be nephews of its owner were arrested earlier in the day, according to Indonesia’s official Antara News Agency. Antara reported that Top is believed to have been arrested Seven people and two bombers were killed and more than 50 injured in last month’s twin bombings targeting Jakarta’s JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels. The blasts were the first major terrorist attack in Indonesia in more than three years. A statement attributed to Top claimed responsibility for the attacks. The Malaysian-born explosives expert and his accomplices are also thought to have been behind several bombing campaigns in Indonesia during the past decade. He allegedly was involved in a previous attack on the Marriott in Jakarta in August 2003, as well as attacks on a Bali nightclub in 2002 and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004, according to the FBI. In February 2006, the FBI added Top to its list of 10 suspected terrorists who have not been charged in the United States, and officially are wanted only for questioning.