Jakarta: Indonesia still faces a key risk of new militant attacks as Islamic radicals have set up new cells in recent years and some bomb experts remain at large, the head of the country`s anti-terrorism unit said on Thursday.
Police have killed or captured a string of suspected militants, including Southeast Asia`s most-wanted fugitive, Noordin Mohammad Top, since suicide bombings on two luxury hotels in Jakarta in July shattered a four-year lull in attacks.
But Saud Usman Nasution, head of the country`s US trained anti-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, said new attacks could occur at any time in the world`s most populous Muslim nation.
"Whenever they have a chance, they will launch them," Nasution, who rarely talks to the media, told reporters.
"Many terrorists responsible for bombings in Indonesia are still at large. Many of them are still preparing themselves, it seems, and many new cells have been formed," he said.
Those on the run, he said, included expert bomb makers.
He refused to elaborate because he said the information could be sensitive for police operations in the field.
Nasution said that since 2000 police had detained 455 militants, of which 352 had been convicted.
More than 200 had been released from jail, while 12 militants were still in police detention facing a legal process, he added.
The killing of some key militants including Top, who claimed to head al Qaeda in Southeast Asia, could also encourage other militants to return to the country, he said.
Such figures, he said, included Umar Patek and Dulmatin, both accused of having a role in the 2002 Bali bombings and believed to be on the run in the Philippines.
Nasution said police were still investigating a possible link between militant groups in Indonesia and al Qaeda after the arrest in August of a Saudi man and the owner of an Indonesian radical website and magazine.
Al Qaeda helped fund the 2002 Bali bombings and the 2003 JW Marriott hotel bombings in Jakarta, which killed scores of Indonesians and Westerners, Nasution said.
A string of bombings in Indonesia since 2000 has been blamed on Jemaah Islamiah, a regional militant network, although violent splinter groups such as the one led by Top are now believed to be the key threats for new attacks.