Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Shortly after Joko Widodo became Indonesias seventh president in October 2014, Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo echoed the governments commitment to crush a terror group of Eastern Indonesian Mujahidin led by Santoso hiding in Poso, Central Sulawesi.

"President Widodos instruction is to sweep clean, for which all the TNI forces have been deployed. How come (we have done) nothing against them for the last decade? Starting next month, we are going to the field and will crush (them)," Minister Kumolo had stated in Papua in late December 2014.

From early 2015 until January 9, 2016, joint police and military forces had launched security operations dubbed Seagull Maleo I to IV involving thousands of personnel, as well as warships and jet fighters in Poso.

During the Seagull Maleo IV operation, the forces managed to arrest 17 alleged terrorists and killed seven others, but Santoso was not among them.

Following the conclusion of the Seagull Maleo operations, the authorities have launched another security operation termed Tinombala to continue their hunt for Santoso and his men in the jungles of Poso, Central Sulawesi Province, since January 10, 2016, for two months.

"I propose that the (Tinombala) operation be extended for six months because if it is extended for every two months, we are just going to be busy with administrative matters," Political, Legal and Security Affairs Coordinating Minister, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan said on March 10.

The minister said that the security personnel have been able to corner Santoso alias Abu Wardah and his men.

"They have been relatively encircled," he stated.

The government has discussed the financial matters of this extended operation and there will be a significant progress within the next few weeks, he stated.

The police chief also plans to visit Poso to observe the latest developments in the operation, Luhut said.

Furthermore, Inspector General M. Tito Karnavian, the newly installed chief of the National Counter-terrorism Agency (BNPT), has vowed to focus on handling terrorism in Poso.

"I will focus on a short-term plan to handle terrorism in Poso, Central Sulawesi," Tito Karnavian remarked after his inauguration on March 16, 2016.

The police and the military are jointly conducting the Tinombala operation to capture Santoso, hiding in the mountainous regions of Poso.

"The Tinombala operation is being conducted by the police, with the support of the military," he said.

Karnavian said the government should fully back the operation, which is expected to cut off logistics supplies and information to Santosos group.

"A variety of approaches should be applied there, including a focus on economic and employment issues, to resolve the problem," he affirmed.

As for foreigners, he stated that seven people from China had joined Santosos group.

"Of these, three were detained," he affirmed.

On March 15, security personnel shot dead two alleged terrorists identified as Magalasi Bahtusan aka Faroq and Nuretin aka Abdul, from Uighur, China, in Napu, Poso District, according to Central Sulawesi Police Chief Brig. Gen. Rudy Sufahriadi.

"Four more people from Uighur joining the Santoso terror group remain at large," he added.

Sufahriadi expressed hope that besides arresting Santoso, the government should also strengthen deradicalization programs.

Earlier, the Chief of the Indonesian Military Commander, General TNI Gatot Nurmantyo, stated recently that he would not impose a military emergency status on Poso district.

"The TNI and the police are conducting the joint operation with one goal -- arresting Santoso and his men. The police will continue to lead the operations," he said.

On March 11, Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan reiterated that the joint military and police forces have cornered the Santoso-led terror group.

"Until now, we have been successful in cornering them in a smaller location, about 5 km x 5 km," Luhut Pandjaitan said.

The operation is being carried out in a mountainous area, and security personnel have identified places where the Santoso group members stay, he added.

He expressed his surprise that within a short time span, the cooperation between military (TNI) and police (Polri) managed to surround and corner the group.

The minister hoped that Santoso will surrender to prevent undesirable consequences.

He, however, said the personnel are prepared for any eventualities, including any worst case scenario.

The minister could not state a deadline as to when Santoso would be captured.

"When it comes to fighting guerrillas, no country in the world can set a target. No one can say that within one or two months, all this would end," he said .

The minister noted that the Santoso groups guerrilla tactics are inseparable from a Poso conflict that had broken out in 1999. (*)

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Heru Purwanto
Copyright © ANTARA 2016