Police and military troops killed two alleged members of the Santoso-led East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) terrorist group in Poso, Central Sulawesi, on Tuesday, said Indonesian Military (TNI) Commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo.
"There was a shoot-out at 10 a.m. and two unidentified people were killed," Gatot said without elaborating.
Despite causalities on both sides during the operation, government troops will continue hunting Santoso and his group, Gatot said as reported by tempo.co.
On March 15, troops also engaged MIT members on Mount Tabalosa in Lore, Poso, killing two suspected terrorists.
National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti said the shoot-out happened at Sector IV near Napu, Central Sulawesi -- an area where the terrorist group had been cornered at one stage.
Badrodin said, however, the death of the two terrorists did not mean the troops were close to catching Santoso as it was believed he was hiding deep inside the forest, the boundaries of which were guarded by his followers.
"They form small groups of six to seven people. The leader is probably not there but in another place," Badrodin said as quoted by kompas.com.
Based on police intelligence, the number of MIT members in mid-March was reduced from 45 to 38 members. They are believed to be behind several attacks on police officers in Poso and other parts of Central Sulawesi in past years.
Meanwhile, Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Rudy Sufahriadi said on Tuesday that a terrorist identified only as SH was arrested by the TNI in Napu, Poso regency, on Monday while visiting a local resident's house to ask for food.
"SH is indeed one of the most-wanted Poso-based terrorist. He is from Indramayu [West Java]," Rudy said as quoted by Antara news agency.
Santoso and his group are reportedly surrounded by troops and lack food and other supplies. Some MIT members have abandoned the group and surrendered to authorities.
Recently, the Operation Tinombala team found a decomposed body, which was identified as that of a member of the MIT who allegedly had been executed by Santoso for attempting to abandon the radical group.
An Army helicopter crashed in Poso Pesisir Selatan district on Sunday, killing 13 passengers and crew members. (afr/bbn)