Indonesian prez confirms Bali mastermind killed

CANBERRA: Indonesia’s president today confirmed the killing by police of a suspected Bali bombing mastermind and, in a historic speech to Australia’s parliament, vowed to hunt down Islamist extremists.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Dulmatin, an Al-Qaeda trained bomb specialist with a 10 million US dollar bounty on his head from Washington, was killed by police in a major blow to Indonesia’s Islamic militants.

“We can confirm that one of those that were killed was Dulmatin, one of the top Southeast Asian terrorists that we have been looking for,” Yudhoyono said through an interpreter in Canberra.

Yudhoyono also promised to keep up the pressure on militants including from Dulmatin’s Jemaah Islamiyah group, blamed for the 2002 Bali blasts which killed 202 people including 88 Australians.

“Just yesterday our police authorities raided an important terrorist cell in a suburb of Jakarta and put several terrorist operatives out of commission,” he told parliament.

“In any case, the Indonesian authorities will continue to hunt them down and do all we can to prevent them from harming our people.” Dulmatin was a leader of the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). The news comes as US President Barack Obama, whose country had offered the huge reward, prepares to visit Indonesia and Australia.

Dulmatin, one of Indonesia’s most wanted fugitives, was accused of helping plan and carry out the Bali blasts. Police had refused to confirm he was one of three militants killed on Tuesday after he was falsely reported dead in 2008.

His death follows Indonesia’s success last September in killing Malaysian terror mastermind Noordin Mohammad Top in a raid which left his Central Java hideout a burnt-out shell.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd praised the operation, which took place on the same day Yudhoyono was given Australia’s highest civilian honour for overseeing the initial Bali investigation as Indonesia’s security minister.

“This has been a very professional operation by the Indonesian security forces and it comes on top of other successful operations in recent times,” Rudd said.

“The breakthroughs which Indonesia has made in undermining various terrorist networks have been significant.”

The announcement capped a triumphant visit for Yudhoyono to Australia, with a wide-ranging new accord with the Aussies.