Indonesia urged to stay alert for militant attacks

(For a factbox on Noordin Mohammad Top click on [ID:nJAK73083])

JAKARTA, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Indonesia will release DNA test results to remove any doubt one of Asia’s most wanted militants was killed, police said on Friday, as neigbouring Australia urged Jakarta to keep up the fight against Islamist extremism. Police said Malaysian-born Noordin Mohammad Top, the suspected mastermind behind the bombings of the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta in July, died on Thursday in a shootout during a raid on a house near Solo in Central Java.

Top’s death was confirmed using Malaysian police fingerprint records but police spokesman Nanan Soekarna said the results of DNA tests on Top’s body would be made public on Friday.

Police were concerned about possible retaliation from militants as Indonesia heads for a holiday next week to mark the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Soekarna said.

“We must keep on alert,” Soekarna said by telephone.

Top, who set up a violent splinter group of regional militant network Jemaah Islamiah, was blamed for attacks in Bali and Jakarta that killed scores of Westerners and Indonesians.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy and the world’s most populous Muslim country, had been under intense pressure to capture or kill Top ahead of a planned visit by U.S. President Barack Obama in November.

“I think this reduces the threat level but he (Top) has a network and substantial portions of it remain at large and it’s clear that some of his capabilities have been transmitted to members of his network,” said Kevin O’Rourke, a Jakarta-based political risk analyst and author.


Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd welcomed the death of Top, who died with three other militants including members of his inner circle in the gunfight in Solo. [ID:nSYD416865]

“This man has been a mass murderer. He has been responsible for the murder of Australians, and I congratulate the Indonesians on their success,” Rudd told Australian radio.

“However, it doesn’t leave us in a position where we can feel complacent about the future. Jemaah Islamiah is alive and well, al Qaeda is still alive and well,” Rudd said.

Scores of Australians have been killed in attacks by Islamist militants in Jakarta and Bali since 2002.

The July bombings ended a four-year lull in attacks in Indonesia. Subsequent police investigations showed that Top’s group of militants had planned to assassinate President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at his home using a suicide truck bomb.

Yudhoyono, who will start a second term in office in October after a landslide election victory in July, said on Thursday Top’s death could reduce the security threat in Indonesia.

Some analysts said Top’s death should also help improve investment sentiment in Indonesia. (For a table on security ratings for Asian countries, click on [ID:nSP447043])

“I think this has been a good week for the investment climate. We had the rating upgrade, the value of the rupiah and of course the capture and killing of Noordin Top,” said Fauzi Ichsan, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Jakarta.

Helped by improved economic and political stability under Yudhoyono, the rupiah IDR= is the best performing currency in Asia so far this year, while Jakarta stocks .JKSE are up more than 80 percent this year and bond prices have also rallied.

Moody’s Investors Service also raised Indonesia’s sovereign rating on Wednesday by one notch to Ba2 on improving economic prospects. [ID:nJAK535123]

Additional reporting by Sunanda Creagh and Olivia Rondonuwu in JAKARTA, and by Rob Taylor in CANBERRA; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Paul Tait