A militant serving a 19-year prison sentence for beheading three Christian schoolgirls has escaped while visiting his sick wife and is still at large, Indonesian police said Friday.
National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Boy Rafli Amar said Basri, 36, fled from his house in the Central Sulawesi town of Poso last week when a guard who escorted him from jail to the home left him unguarded for several hours.
Basri, who like many Indonesians uses a single name, was sentenced to 19 years in jail in 2007 for the beheadings and a series of attacks that terrorized Poso, where a Muslim-Christian conflict killed at least 1,000 people from 1998 to 2002.
“When the guard came to take him back to the prison, he found that Basri was no longer at his house,” Amar said. “He is still at large.”
Police are searching for Basri, whom Amar described as a “dangerous militant,” and are investigating why he was escorted by only one guard.
“We call on people who know his whereabouts to report to authorities immediately,” Amar said.
Basri, who was arrested along with five other militants in February 2007, admitted to beheading one of the three girls in late 2005 as they walked to school along a quiet jungle path overlooking Poso.
In an interview with The Associated Press days after their arrests, Basri said he and the other militants learned weapons handling and bomb making from members of the al-Qaida-linked Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah.
Footage of the 2007 counterterrorism operation that led to their arrest was posted on YouTube and Muslim websites, sparking outrage among Islamic groups.
The video shows uniformed officers from Indonesia’s elite anti-terrorism unit yelling and shooting rounds to scare the shirtless, bound suspects, who were lying face down on the ground. One man wearing only underwear and shown with a bloody hole in his back, presumably from a gunshot wound, was identified as Wiwin Kalahe, another beheading convict.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, has won praise for arresting and convicting terrorists since the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.