JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian police have captured the country’s most-wanted militant, Abu Dujana, who heads a military wing of the Southeast Asian militant group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a police spokesman said on Wednesday.
Dujana had been sought in connection with several deadly bomb attacks, including the 2004 Australian embassy blast and a car bombing at the JW Marriot hotel in Jakarta a year earlier.
Police said he also had a role in the 2002 Bali bombings.
The Indonesian anti-terrorist unit, Detachment 88, caught a number of suspects during raids in Central Java at the weekend.
“After interrogating all suspects we know that Abu Dujana alias Yusron Mahmudi is the chief of the military wing of JI,” National Police spokesman Sisno Adiwinoto told a news conference.
The spokesman said investigations had shown that 37-year-old Dujana went by a number of names, but DNA tests and fingerprints proved the man they held was the wanted suspect.
He was shot in the thigh during his capture on Saturday, police said.
“He is a big fish within the JI structure,” said Sidney Jones of the International Crisis Group.
“If he is willing to talk he will be able to tell the police about the structure, the strength, the finances and the international connection and the goal and objectives of JI,” added Jones, an expert on militant Islamic organizations.
Deputy police chief Makbul Padmanegara told reporters recently that Dujana had replaced Noordin M Top, a Malaysian national considered a mastermind behind a series of bomb attacks, as Indonesia’s most wanted fugitive.
Asian and Western authorities blame JI for a series of attacks in Southeast Asia, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people on the resort island.
“He was involved generally in the first Bali bombing, Poso and others,” said police spokesman Adiwinoto, who described him as a field commander, strategic planner and bomb expert.
Police believe the arrest, which was not disclosed for five days to help the investigation, will foil planned attacks.
“We have succeeded in avoiding terrorist action before it happened,” said Adiwinoto, adding that Dujana was likely to be charged under anti-terrorism laws. This means that if found guilty, he could face the death penalty.
He said he hoped the arrests would speed up the capture of other Bali bomb suspects, including Noordin M Top.
According to police files, Dujana had military training in Afghanistan in 1989 where he later fought with the mujahideen.
Fluent in Arabic and English, he also met al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the files showed.
In 1991, he became a teacher at an Islamic boarding school in Johor in Malaysia, where he met Noordin M Top. He later became secretary at JI’s headquarters, police said.
Australia’s foreign minister expressed his delight at the arrest. Canberra has been closely involved in training Indonesian police and providing intelligence and forensic help.
“I think they are doing an outstanding job in combating terrorism,” Alexander Downer told parliament.
After a series of raids earlier this year, police revealed that Dujana had emerged as the head of a military wing of JI after the death in 2005 of master bomb-maker Azahari Husin.
In the March raids, police said they had also found a huge cache of weapons, explosives and chemicals that could be used to make a bomb even bigger than the main device used in Bali.
Police spokesman Adiwinoto said seven other suspects had been caught at the weekend apart from Dujana, but declined to give any details apart from their initials.
Although there has been no major bomb attack since 2005, police say Indonesia still faces a considerable threat from Islamic militants.
Additional reporting by Ahmad Pathoni and Jenna Juwono in Jakarta and James Grubel in Canberra