Indonesia: Noordin Top Still At Large

Updated On: Aug 12, 2009

The fingerprints and facial features of a man killed in a shoot-out with police on Saturday are different from those of Noordin Top, leading to growing belief among officials that the Malaysian terrorist has escaped again.

Police have not officially ruled out Noordin's death and are awaiting the results of DNA tests.

Photographs of the bullet- and shrapnel-riddled body dragged from the remote farmhouse in Central Java at the end of a 17-hour siege on Saturday morning do not resemble Noordin, police sources and independent experts said.

Noordin, 40, is wanted for multiple suicide bombings against "iconic" Western targets in Indonesia since 2003 which have killed around 50 people and injured hundreds.

He is the self-proclaimed leader of "Al-Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago", an offshoot of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) regional terror group responsible for the 2002 Bali attacks which killed more than 200 people.

The twin suicide blasts at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta on July 17, which killed nine people including six foreigners and the bombers, are believed to be his first major strike since 2005.

It was unclear whether Noordin was ever in the Central Java house that was besieged overnight Friday, but the counter-terrorist police source indicated that the Malaysian might have escaped before the police arrived.

Noordin escaped two earlier armed assaults on his hideouts, and his legend will grow among Islamic fundamentalists if he has evaded capture once again.

Pressure will also mount on US-trained counter-terrorism forces to track him down before he can do further damage to Indonesia's hard-earned image as a stable and moderate Muslim-majority country.

Five of Noordin's alleged accomplices have been arrested in recent days, and two men described by police as would-be suicide bombers were killed Saturday in a raid on a house in Bekasi, outside Jakarta, packed with bomb-making material.

Police said the would-be bombers were planning to detonate a truck rigged with explosives at President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's main residence, which is a 12-minute drive away.

The attack, timed around Indonesia's Independence Day on August 17, had been ordered by Noordin during a meeting on April 30 as revenge for the execution of three of the Bali bombers late last year, they said.


AFP, Doubts grow about Islamist's death in Indonesia, 9 August 2009, http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iwLNt9kZ24WnA_V0JzLug...

The Wall Street Journal, Indonesian Antiterror Victories, 10 August 2009, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405297020425140457434186201444000...

The Straits Times, Man killed 'not Noordin', 11 August 2009, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/SE%2BAsia/Story/STIStory_415...

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