Top Islamic militant killed in Indonesia

  • 20/07/2016
Indonesian police special forces on the hunt for Abu Wardah Santoso (AAP)
Indonesian police special forces on the hunt for Abu Wardah Santoso (AAP)

Indonesia's most wanted militant, who had Islamic State links, has been killed in a gun battle with security forces, a top minister said.

It was a victory for the government's counter-terrorism campaign that further tightens the vice on a dwindling band of extremists in the jungles of Sulawesi island.

Abu Wardah Santoso was one of two militants killed in the shootout on Monday (local time), Coordinating Minister for Security, Political and Legal Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan told reporters.

The other was an extremist known as Mochtar, not Santoso's deputy Basri, as police had initially thought.

Santoso, who headed the East Indonesia Mujahideen militant group that claims allegiance to the Islamic State group, had eluded capture for more than five years.

"The strength of this extremist group will definitely weaken after the death of Santoso," Pandjaitan said.

"We will increase our forces to pressure the rest of the members."

National police chief General Tito Karnavian says the bodies of the two men have been flown to Palu in central Sulawesi where official efforts to identify them will be made.

"Some of our members who know him (from an operation in 2005 when they captured Santoso) and ... witnesses, who know him, (have positively recognised (him) as Santoso," he said.

"He's Santoso. But there are still another steps (to be taken)."

Five other suspects were arrested in the operation and they will also be asked to identify the bodies.

He also said Basri had tattoos that would assist in identifying him.

More than 2500 security personnel, including elite army troops, intensified their operations this year in Poso, a mountainous district of Central Sulawesi province considered an extremist hotbed, to try to capture Santoso and his followers.