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Indonesian authorities now doubt that the man killed in a Saturday raid on a suspected terror hideout was local militant leader Noordin Mohammed Top, who police said just days ago was the raid's sole casualty.
Some analysts worry that his possible survival, combined with the boldness of a foiled plot to assassinate Indonesia's president, may increase his stature as an icon of jihad. Mr. Noordin is Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorist. He claims to be Al Qaeda's representative in the region, and police say he was behind the suicide bombings at the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta July 17 that killed nine and wounded more than 50.
Doubts began to emerge shortly after the raid. On Saturday, Abdullah Hendropriyono, a former chief of the country's state intelligence agency, told a TV interviewer that he did not believe that Noordin had been killed, according to The Jakarta Post.
According to Agence France-Presse, Noordin leads a group called "Al Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago," part of the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which has killed hundreds in a string of attacks on foreign targets since 2002. (Click here for a briefing on JI from The Christian Science Monitor.)
Experts believe Noordin masterminded many of those attacks. The July 17 bombings are believed to be his first strikes since 2005. But police say he has another target in mind: Indonesia's president.
A separate raid on Saturday in the town of Bekasi killed two men who authorities say were planning a bomb attack on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono tied to the Aug. 17 Independence Day holiday. The Jakarta Post says the raid took place on a house just 12 minutes from the president's home.
If it turns out news of Noordin's death has been greatly exaggerated, some analysts worry he will become an even tougher foe for authorities to defeat. Defying police could turn him into an even more enduring and dangerous icon for Islamic extremists.