The leader of an Islamic State-linked militant network in Indonesia was killed in a shootout with security forces, police said Sunday.
Ali Kalora, head of the East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), was shot dead Saturday in Sulawesi island’s jungle along with another member identified as Jaka Ramadhan.
A report by AsiaNews said Kalora was known for the “brutality with which he tormented the local Christian population” of Poso in central Sulawesi.
“Once a well-known seaside resort, between the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the new century, the city witnessed the sectarian conflict between Protestant Christians and Muslim extremists,” read the report.
In November 2020, suspected MIT fighters killed four Christians and in May of this year beheaded members of a Protestant family.
Police said they have launched a manhunt for four more MIT militants.
“We will keep looking until we get them,” Rudy Sufahriadi, police chief of Central Sulawesi province, said Sunday.
The weekend firefight took place two months after authorities shot down two suspected members of the group in the same Parigi Moutong district, near the extremist hotbed Poso district.
Designated a terrorist organization by the United States, MIT is among dozens of radical groups across the Southeast Asian archipelago that have pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.
After hiding out in the jungles of Sulawesi for years, the network is now estimated to have just a handful of members. But it has been accused of plotting several deadly attacks, including most recently killing four farmers — and reportedly beheading one — in a remote village in May.
Kalora took over leadership of MIT after the country’s most-wanted extremist, Santoso, was shot dead by troops in 2016.
A long-haired, gun-toting militant, Santoso regularly appeared in videos urging extremists to launch attacks on security forces.
He also recruited members from abroad, including several from China’s mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority.
After Indonesia suffered a string of Islamic 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 the country has continued to wrestle with Islamist militancy and terror attacks.
In March, an IS-inspired Indonesian couple blew themselves up at a church in Makassar on Sulawesi island, killing themselves and injuring dozens. – with a report from Mathias Hariyadi and Agence France Presse