Malaysian terror leader Azahari bin Husin was believed to have been killed Wednesday in a shootout with police, a top Indonesian investigator said. Local TV stations reported Azahari, one of Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorists, had blown himself up in an apparent bid to avoid being captured alive.
An elite anti-terror police unit raided a suspected terrorist hide-out in Malang, a small resort town on Java island, at around 4 p.m. Wednesday, Gen. Gorries Mere, the national detective deputy chief, told The Associated Press.
Azahari was thought to have been killed in the raid, he said. "We suspect it is him," Mere said, citing "men in the field." Azahari, 43, is believed to be a key member of the al-Qaida-linked terror group Jemaah Islamiyah.
Together with fellow Malaysian Noordin Mohamed Top, Azahari is believed to have been directly involved in four deadly terrorist attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people.
He is also is suspected in a triple suicide attack on the same resort island last month that killed 20 people.
Witnesses told the SCTV network they heard two explosions and gunfire before police moved in on the house that was harboring suspected terrorists. The roof was blown off the house, according to Jakarta's Metro TV news station.
Police have previously said Azahari always wore explosives around his waist to avoid being captured alive.
Maj. Gen. Ansyaad Mbai, a top Indonesian anti-terror official, confirmed that a major anti-terror operation was under way in Malang targeting Azahari and his group.
He said he did not know whether Azahari was killed. One policeman was shot and injured, he said.
Azahari apparently joined Jemaah Islamiyah in the late 1990s and was sent for training in an al-Qaida camp in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The explosives expert, who had studied engineering in Australia and received a doctoral degree in Britain, later moved to Malaysia, Thailand, and then Indonesia, where he has eluded a massive police dragnet for years, reports the AP. I.L.