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Indonesian cops storm suspected militant hideout

Indonesian police stormed a house where the regional militant leader suspected in last month's attacks on hotels in the capital was believed hiding out with several followers, witnesses and police said. Two local TV stations reported suspected terror chief Noordin Mohammad Top had been killed in the operation, but those reports could not be confirmed.

world Updated: Aug 08, 2009 13:22 IST

Indonesian police stormed a house where the regional militant leader suspected in last month's attacks on hotels in the capital was believed hiding out with several followers, witnesses and police said.

Two local TV stations reported suspected terror chief Noordin Mohammad Top had been killed in the operation, but those reports could not be confirmed. DNA tests will likely have to be performed to ensure the identification.

The raid broke a 16-hour siege of the house in central Java province that had officers trading automatic weapons fire with the militants. At least five loud explosions had rocked the building since dawn.

Police spokesman Nanan Sukarna said officers believed Noordin, who is Southeast Asia's most wanted militant suspect, and two or three of his followers were inside, but could not immediately confirm their fate.

Minutes after the raid, witnesses said officers outside the house took off their helmets and were shaking hands with each other, suggesting all those inside had either been killed or captured. The firing ceased.

A police officer at the scene said a body was found in the bathroom of the house.

Noordin is suspected in last month's attacks on the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in the capital, Jakarta, which killed nine people and broke a four-year gap in terror strikes in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

Noordin is also believed to have played a major role in four other bombings in Indonesia since 2002, including nightclub bombings on the resort island of Bali that year that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.

Killing or capturing him would be a major victory in Indonesia's fight against militants and could significantly weaken the chances of more attacks, given the key planning, financial and motivational role he is believed to have played in terror networks.

Earlier today, officers raided a second house close to the capital Jakarta where they shot and killed two suspected militants and seized bombs and a car rigged to carry them, said Police chief Gen Bambang Hendarso Danuri.

Danuri said one of those arrested had reserved a room in one of the hotels that was used by the terrorists before they attacked.

The house was about 5 kilometers from the residence of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The Detik.Com Web site, quoting an unnamed police source, said officers believed Yudhoyono's house could have been planning an attack there.

Officers circled the house in central Java province last afternoon after making arrests in a nearby town. At one point, they sent remote-controlled robots into the isolated building to search for bombs.

Noordin is a Malaysian citizen who claimed in a video in 2005 to be al-Qaeda's representative in Southeast Asia and to be carrying out attacks on Western civilians to avenge Muslim deaths in Afghanistan.