Jakarta. Ahmad Panjang aka Basir, who police said was a central figure in the militant group East Indonesia Mujahedin (MIT), was killed in an anti-terror crackdown in Central Sulawesi on Tuesday.
The group, which gained notoriety for beheading its victims, has been largely weakened following the killing of leader Ali Kalora in September.
Basir is one of the four remaining MIT combatants sought by the police.
He was killed in a shootout during a joint military-police operation conducted by a special team known as the Madago Raya Task Force in a village in the town of Parigi Moutong at around 10:00 a.m. local time, according to National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmad Ramadhan.
"The body of the fugitive is now being evacuated from the scene," Ahmad said.
Basir’s death leaves three remaining MIT fugitives identified as Askar, Mukhlas, and Suhardin.
According to police, MIT members have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
While the group has been confined to the jungles in Central Sulawesi in recent years with only a handful of combatants, it continued to terrorize and brutally murder villagers or unlucky people crossing their path until Ali was killed by the same task force last year.
The group holed up in a mountainous area on the northern coast of the town of Poso, depending on local farmers for food and other basic supplies.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that those farmers are supportive -- the group often killed villagers they accused of becoming police collaborators.
In December 2018, a villager named Ronal Batau, 34, was beheaded and his severed head was left on a bridge away from the body in the district of Parigi Moutong.
A police team en route to the scene to pick up the body was ambushed by MIT fighters, resulting in two officers injured with gunshot wounds.
Following the April 8, 2020 beheading of a farmer identified as Daeng Tapo, a purported video of Ali emerged on social media platforms, in which he claimed responsibility for the attack and accused his victim as a police collaborator.
In the footage, the man identified by police as Ali warned villagers against becoming police informants: “We will slit your throats if you don’t repent.”
As he spoke, another man stood in the background holding an ISIS flag.
The group is responsible for the killing of at least 20 civilians.