JAKARTA, Indonesia—Indonesian police arrested one of the country’s most-wanted Islamic militants Friday, accusing him of plotting high-profile assassinations and bloody attacks on foreigners at luxury hotels in the capital.
Abu Tholut was captured without a fight during a pre-dawn raid on a home in Central Java province, said Lt. Col. Djihartono, a police spokesman, adding a handgun and several rounds of ammunition also were seized.
The suspect was to be flown to Jakarta later Friday, he said.
Indonesia, a predominantly Muslim nation of 240 million, has battled extremists since 2002, when members of the al-Qaida-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah bombed two nightclubs on the resort island of Bali, killing 202 people, most of them foreign tourists.
Members of a violent offshoot of the group have continued to carry out near-annual strikes on embassies, beach-side restaurants and glitzy hotels since then, killing more than 60.
Tholut, also known as Mustofa, became one of the country’s most wanted fugitives after master bombmakers Noordin M. Top and Dulmatin were gunned down earlier this year in a series of police raids.
Tholut was convicted for involvement in a 2001 bomb blast at a shopping plaza in central Jakarta that wounded six, but released five years later for good behavior. Like dozens of Indonesia’s “rehabilitated” terrorists, it appears he quickly returned to his old ways.
He allegedly helped set up a militant training camp for the homegrown terror cell, Jamaah Anshorut Tauhid, that was uncovered by police in westernmost Aceh province in February and helped recruit members and raise money, officials have said.
“Abu Tholut was deeply involved in terrorist training in Aceh and armed robberies in North Sumatra province,” national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told reporters Friday, citing “confessions by suspected militants arrested earlier.”
The cell was also plotting assassinations, including on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, to punish the state for lending support to the U.S.-led war on terrorism, and Mumbai-styled gun attacks on foreigners, they said.
Indonesia has been widely praised for its anti-terror fight, arresting, bringing to trial and jailing hundreds of militants since 2002. The frequency of attacks has sharply declined, as have the number of deaths.
But experts warn that extremists continue to be a threat.
Nasir Abas—a former militant who has helped police track down and arrest several former colleagues after serving a prison term—said Tholut had been a senior combatant in Afghanistan and he was an “excellent instructor.”
“Abu Tholut is more dangerous than Dulmatin or Noordin Top,” Abas said, adding Tholut also helped train Islamic militants in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao.