On Tuesday, Indonesian security forces performing a sweep of the remote Poso forests, in search of militants linked to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), killed two Chinese Uighurs in a shootout. The Uighurs were said to be working for the terrorist kingpin Abu Wardah Santoso, who has been described as the most-wanted man in Indonesia.
Santoso has been on the run from Indonesian police for more than three years, surviving at least one armed confrontation with security forces in which he was thought to have been killed. He is the head of a network known as the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen, also variously known as the Mujahideen Indonesia Timur or Santoso Group, and was the first Indonesian militant to make a public pledge of fealty to ISIS.
In the course of searching for Santoso’s gang, Indonesian forces encountered a group of men who refused orders to identify themselves. The two men killed in the ensuing gun battle were identified by other suspects as Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority in China.
Reuters recalls that four other Uighurs were arrested last year, after attempting to join Santoso’s militant network.
“Hundreds of people have been killed over the past few years in resource-rich Xinjiang, strategically located on the borders of central Asia, in violence between Uighurs and ethnic majority Han Chinese,” Reuters reports. “Beijing has blamed the unrest on Islamist militants, though rights groups and exiles say anger at Chinese controls on the religion and culture of the Uighurs is more to blame. China denies any repression in Xinjiang.”
As for the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen, security officials told Reuters they have the gang surrounded and cut off from supplies.
“We hope Santoso will surrender, but we are prepared for the worst-case scenario,” said chief Security Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, although he did not give a timetable for when he thought a surrender or confrontation could occur.