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Indonesia on Alert After Police Kill Militant Leader Santoso

Indonesian security forces stand guard at the hospital where a body believed to be that of the country's most-wanted militant, Santoso, who was killed in a clash with security forces, is lying in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia July 19, 2016 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Fiqman Sunandar/ via REUTERS

Indonesian security forces stand guard at the hospital where a body believed to be that of the country’s most-wanted militant, Santoso, who was killed in a clash with security forces, is lying in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia July 19, 2016. Credit: Antara Foto/Fiqman Sunandar/ via Reuters

Jakarta: Indonesian forces are on high alert for reprisal attacks after the country’s most-wanted militant was killed this week, officials said on Wednesday, July 20.

Police confirmed Santoso, among the first Indonesians to pledge loyalty to ISIS, was killed in a gun battle with security forces on the island of Sulawesi on Monday, July 19.

But officials say the threat level in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation remains high.

Rudy Sufahriadi, the police chief for central Sulawesi, said the security operation in Poso, where the US-designated “terrorist” Santoso had been hiding, would continue.

“There is a possibility of a backlash,” he told Reuters by phone. “They are not terrorists if they do not take revenge.”

Chief security minister Luhut Pandjaitan told reporters in Jakarta that operations would be intensified in regions considered hotbeds for radicalism.

Around 20 members of Santoso’s Mujahidin Indonesia Timur remain in hiding in the jungles of Sulawesi, where Indonesia has been running a major security operation for years.

A team of police and military personnel also shot a man believed to be Santoso’s right-hand man on Monday, July 18, a move that officials say will weaken the group.

President Joko Widodo last year stepped up efforts to capture or kill Santoso, ordering the military to support thousands of police scouring the jungles where he was hiding. The effort included fighter jets and warships.

The majority of Indonesians are moderate Muslims but militants have launched sporadic attacks over the past 15 years.

(Reuters)