The Jakarta Post
The US government on Tuesday placed Indonesia's most-wanted man Santoso on a list of global terrorists, paving the way for US law enforcement to take action and possibly team up with its Indonesian counterparts against the country's most high-profile supporter of the Islamic State (IS) movement.
The US State Department placed Santoso, alias Abu Wardah, the leader of the East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) terrorist group, on its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT), blocking any US assets he might have and barring any American citizens from getting involved with him.
'As a result of this designation, all property subject to US jurisdiction in which Santoso has any interest is blocked and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with Santoso,' the US government said in a statement.
The fugitive, who has managed to evade capture by Indonesian authorities in Poso, Central Sulawesi, for more than three years, has led the MIT in numerous killings and kidnappings over the past few years, having pledged allegiance to IS in July 2014.
The MIT itself has already been on the SDGT list as an IS-linked foreign terrorist group since September last year and has ties with other Indonesia-based operations such as Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
'Today's action notifies the US public and the international community that Santoso is actively engaged in terrorism,' the department said.
The SDGT designation enables 'coordinated action across the US government and with our international partners to disrupt the activities of terrorists, including by denying them access to the US financial system and enabling US law enforcement actions.'
In response to Washington's move, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said that the US was entitled to its appraisal of the Poso militant, signaling Indonesia's insistence on its own efforts against him.
'Our National Police have been serious in their pursuit and detention of terrorist suspects in Indonesia; the hunt [for terrorists] commenced long before [the SDGT label] and will continue to be pursued,' the ministry spokesperson said on Thursday.
Arrmanatha said that Jakarta would still need to verify the US State Department's mechanisms for labeling Santoso a global threat, but he was sure that the decision was sound.
At least 2,500 military and National Police personnel have been on deployment since January, hunting for Santoso and around 34 of his followers, who are suspected of plotting guerrilla attacks against security forces while hiding in the forests of Poso.
Washington's decision follows a recent military helicopter accident in Poso, in which 13 Army personnel, including senior officers involved in the hunt for Santoso, dubbed Operation Tinombala, were killed.
Among the victims of Sunday's crash was Palu Taduloko Regional Military commander and Operation Tinombala deputy chief Col. Saiful Anwar.
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