The Jakarta Post
Lake Tambing in Poso, Central Sulawesi, has been temporarily closed to the public amid Operation Tinombala, a joint effort by the Indonesian Military (TNI) and police to capture the country's most-wanted terrorist Santoso and his followers.
Public access to Lake Tambing, a popular tourist attraction located in Lore Lindu National Park (TNLL), has been closed for a week, national park head Sudayatna said on Friday.
"Lake Tambing is being used as a camp for security officers during Operation Tinombala," he told thejakartapost.com.
Lake Tambing is favored by domestic and foreign visitors for its scenic views and the opportunity to see rare birds.
Just two hours’ drive from the provincial capital of Palu, the lake is home to 270 bird species, 30 percent of which are endemic, including the maleo.
Up to 10 foreigner researchers typically visit the lake daily.
The TNLL Center recorded that around 6,000 tourists visited Lake Tambing from January to August last year, including foreign tourists, who were mostly from the US, UK, the Netherlands, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Australia.
Around 3,000 security officers have been deployed for Operation Tinombala since January to hunt down Santoso, aka Abu Wardah, and his East Indonesia Mujahidin radical group, in the forests of Poso.
The officers have shifted their search from Lore Peore and Central Lore based on information from a member of the group who was arrested by officers, suggesting that Santoso was in Wuasa Forest, North Lore subdistrict.
Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Rudy Sufahriadi said on Friday that Santoso's group had become separated after a shoot-out with the TNI and police.
A witness claimed that Santoso had fled to North Lore.
"A witness showed a photo of Santoso eating anoa in North Lore," Rudy said.
The police estimated that the group's members had dropped to 27 from an initial 45 as several members have died or been arrested.
Local residents in Poso’s Napu Valley, where the operation is also taking place, are reportedly worried about the movements of the terrorist group.
"[Normally] local people stay for up to a week in the woods to search for rattan and resin. Now they hesitate to go because they are afraid of encountering terrorists," said Lore Peore subdistrict chief M. Weku.
However, local people’s fears have begun to ease as TNI and police personnel remain in Napu to search for Santoso. Locals also often inform security personnel if they see strangers in the area. (rin)
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