Santoso's terrorists connected to radical Philippine group: Police

Terrorist guerillas in Poso, Central Sulawesi, led by the fugitive Santoso, have close ties with and receive weapons from a radical group in the Philippines, a top police official has said.

The ties that link the East Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) to radical groups in the Philippines could be seen from the type of arms the MIT members use, Central Sulawesi Police chief Brig. Gen. Rudy Sufahriady said on Sunday.

"Santoso's group has a close connection with the radical group in the Philippines. As reported, some of his members went for war strategy training there," he told journalists as quoted by Antara news agency.

Central Sulawesi Police confirmed the origins of the MIT's weapons after the National Police's coutnerterrorism squad Densus 88 arrested Witadi, aka Iron, on May 28 last year in Manado, North Sulawesi. The arrest of the suspect, who originally came from Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, lead to indications that the guns used by the MIT were made by a radical Philippine group, especially after another of Santoso's followers was arrested during the recent “Operation Tinombala”.

Rudy did not release the name of the radical group.

Suspect Witadi was involved in military training in Poso set up by Santoso and his now deceased right-hand man Daeng Koro in 2013, Rudy said.

Central Sulawesi Police released the latest most-wanted list of Santoso's group that consists of 29 people including three women. The women are the wives of Santoso and two of his followers.

The number is down. There were previously 41 people hiding in the mountains of Poso.

At least 10 people died and two of Santoso's followers were captured alive during Tinombala.

The operation, which started in January, had deployed at least 3,000 Indonesian Military (TNI) and police personnel in a manhunt for Santoso and his terrorist group that is believed to have been behind several attacks against security officers in the Poso area. (rin)

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