Jakarta – The "Demolition Man" is dead – having blown himself up after being cornered by Indonesian police at a villa in East Java on Nov 9. While Indonesian authorities would have certainly preferred to catch Jemaah Islamiah (JI) bomb-maker Azahari Husin alive, their success in tracking him down represents a major victory for the much-maligned security services in their battle against the terrorist group.
According to national police chief General Sutanto, his men, acting on information from two-recently arrested militants, descended quietly on Azahari's hideout, a villa in the East Java town of Malang.
After several days surveillance, the order to move in was given. Police were about to raid the villa when the occupants inside opened fire. An explosion went off. It was believed to have been set off by Azahari, 48, who is known to have explosives slung across his shoulder or strapped inside a jacket he wore all the time.
Witnesses reported an exchange of gunfire that lasted about half an hour. A police spokesman said those inside the house "were putting up stiff resistence, and were throwing grenades". An eyewitness added: "It was like a war."
It was not known how many militants were holed in the villa. Police, fearing the building to be booby-trapped, were combing the area cautiously.
The fate of Azahari's sidekick, fellow Malaysian Noordin Mohamed Top, remains unknown. Officials have said that the two men usually travelled apart.
Azahri, a former university lecturer and electronics expert, is said to be the man who designed and supervised the makings of bombs that killed over 200 people inBali in 2002. Along with Noordin, Azahari is also believed to be one of the brains behind the 2003 suicide blast at JW Marriott Hotel and a bombing outside the Australian Embassy a year later.
While welcoming Azahari's demise, the Kompas newspaper warned Indonesian authorities against complacency. In an editorial, it noted that many of Azahari's accomplices are still on the loose.
"The war on terrorism is a war with no end. Kudos to the police for tracking down Dr Azahari and finishing him off. However, the police should not let success get to their heads. And they should not be complacent."
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak described Azahari's death as a defeat for JI.
But he added: "I think it is a major setback for JI activities in the region but it does not mean that the JI cannot regroup again."
* JI bomb-maker killed (The Straits Times, Nov 10)
* Neverending war against terrorism (Kompas, Nov 10)
*Dr Azahari confirmed killed (Antara, Nov 10)
*Azahari dead (New Straits Times, Nov 10)