World News

FACTBOX: Five facts about Islamic militant Noordin Top

(Reuters) - Indonesian police said on Wednesday that forensic tests showed a suspect shot dead in a raid on a farmhouse in Central Java at the weekend was not leading Islamic militant Noordin Mohammad Top.

Malaysian-born Top is believed to be the mastermind behind the near simultaneous suicide attacks on two luxury Jakarta hotels last month. Police sources were initially confident that Top had been killed, but widespread doubts quickly emerged.

News that Top has managed to elude police again and remains on the run is a blow for Indonesian security forces and efforts to contain further attacks in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Here are five facts on Top:

-- Top, a key recruiter, strategist and financier for militant Muslim group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), has been on the run for years, eluding capture on several occasions. Some mystical Javanese believe that Top must possess magic powers or charms that protect him. Police put it down to his reluctance to use easily tracked mobile phones and his reliance on a close network of sympathizers who guard his whereabouts and act as his couriers when he needs to send messages to his cells.

-- He is said to have planned the bomb attacks on the JW Marriott in Jakarta in 2003, on the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004 and in Bali in 2005 -- attacks designed to scare off foreign tourists and businesses so that Jemaah Islamiah could create a caliphate across Southeast Asia.

- Top, 41, was born in Johor, southern Malaysia, and completed a bachelor of science at the University of Technology, Malaysia in 1991. He taught in an Islamic boarding school in Malaysia set up by founders of Jemaah Islamiah and later fled to Indonesia after a crackdown on militants after the September 11 attacks in 2001. He was a close ally of Azahari Husin, a Malaysian bomb-maker, who was killed during a police raid in 2005 in East Java. He is thought to have escaped a raid in Central Java in 2006 when two other alleged militants were killed.

- He is among the most-wanted of Jemaah Islamiah’s members, with a bounty of 1 billion rupiah ($100,900) on his head. He is widely believed to favor using bombs against Western targets, even if Indonesians and Muslims end up as collateral damage.

- His disagreement with other Jemaah Islamiah members over the use of violence eventually led him to form a far more violent splinter group in 2003, recruiting and training new members from other organizations for future operations. Since the Australian embassy bombing, the stated aim of his group -- Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad, or Organization for the Base of Jihad -- has been “to make Western nations tremble.”

Reporting by Olivia Rondonuw, Sunanda Creagh and Ed Davies; Editing by Jeremy Laurence