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Jakarta Post

Military chopper crashes, kills 13 in Poso

  • Ruslan Sangadji

    The Jakarta Post

Palu, Central Sulawesi   /   Mon, March 21, 2016   /  06:11 am

An Indonesian military helicopter taking part in an antiterrorism operation crashed on Sunday in Poso regency, Central Sulawesi, reportedly killing all 13 people on board.

Poso Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Ronny Suseno confirmed the incident occurred at around 6:20 p.m. local time on Sunday in Pattiro Bajo hamlet, South Poso Pesisir district, Poso, revealing that the victims included Tadulako military commander Col. Saiful Anwar who was also deputy chief of Operation Tinombala, an operation set up to hunt members of the East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) terror group.

'€œThe helicopter is believed to have been hit by lightning before it crashed. Weather has been bad in the area over the last couple of days,'€ Rashid said, adding that the crash site was about 1.5 kilometers from Kasiguncu airport in Poso.

He said that other victims included Col. Ontang of the National Intelligence Agency, Col. Heri Setiaji of the military'€™s Strategic Intelligence Agency and Lt. Col. Teddy S. Prapat, the commander of the Palu Military Police.

Saiful had told reporters on Saturday that they would soon arrest Santoso, alias Abu Wardah, the country'€™s most-wanted man and leader of the MIT and his subordinates. '€œWe'€™ve cornered them. It'€™s just a matter of time,'€ he claimed.

Saiful revealed that Santoso and his supporters were hiding in three areas: A mountainous area in Torire village, Central Lore district, Talabosa mountains and Betua area in Lore Piore district.

He said the joint operation personnel had surrounded the three areas and established perimeters in order to limit the movement of the suspected terrorists.

He said officers were also tightly guarding villages from which MIT members could steal food, checking all vehicles passing through the areas.

'€œThey are now starving as we have cut off their source of supplies,'€ he added.

However, he said Santoso and his accomplices were still armed and dangerous, and still had several home-made bombs.

Santoso is also believed to be the de facto leader of the Islamic State (IS) movement in Indonesia.

Last week, two of Santoso'€™s men were shot dead in a gunfight with the security forces. The two victims were later identified as ethnic Uighurs from China.

From the late 1990s to the mid-2000s, Poso saw bloody sectarian conflict between Muslims and Christians. The violence officially ended with the signing of the Malino Accords in 2001 and 2002, but the region has remained a hotbed of terrorist activity.

At the time of writing, police and military personnel were still trying to recover the bodies of victims from the crash scene. Thirteen ambulances were dispatched to the location to bring the bodies to Bhayangkara Police Hospital in Palu.

Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Rudy Sufahriadi said that after arriving at the hospital, the bodies would be kept at a crisis center in Mutiara SIS Aljufri Palu before being flown to their respective hometowns.

Rudy and his wife, along with police leaders visited Saiful'€™s official residence and expressed their condolences.

Central Sulawesi Governor Longki Djanggola also expressed his condolences, saying that he had last met Saiful in Poso two days ago and discussed the terrorist hunt.

'€œI'€™m speechless. I express my deepest condolences. The price of this terrorist hunt is too high,'€ Longki said.