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Top Asian Terrorist Leader Dead in Indonesia

One of Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorists has been confirmed dead after blowing himself up to avoid capture by Indonesia police.

Indonesian presidential spokesman Andi Mallerangeng says fingerprints Thursday confirmed that terrorist mastermind and explosives expert Azahari bin Husin is dead. He called it another blow against terrorism.

"We are very glad that progress is being made in anti-terrorism," he said. "The people around the location are very supportive because everybody understands that terrorism is our common enemy."

Authorities say that Azahari bin Husin and two militants apparently blew themselves up Wednesday rather than surrender to an elite Indonesia police unit that had surrounded their hideout in Malang in east Java.

Regional security expert and Australia's Federal Police Commissioner Mike Keelty says he is not surprised that they chose death over capture.

"That didn't come as a surprise to us because about 12 months ago we became aware after going into a safe house at Bandung that Dr. Azahari was planning that if ever he was cornered he would detonate a bomb and kill himself rather than allow the police to arrest him," he said.

Azahari bin Husin is believed to be a top leader and explosives expert for al-Qaida linked regional terrorist network, Jemaah Islamiyah.

He, along with his Malaysian compatriot, Noordin Mohammad Top, have been wanted for a string of Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist bombings in Indonesia in the past three years that have killed hundreds of people.

Many of the victims of the 2002 Bali Bombings were Australians. Australian police chief, Mike Keelty, is hopeful that more Jemaah Islamiyah leaders will be found.

"Top is still at large," he noted. "Quite clearly I don't want to publicly say what we know about hat at this point in time. But we're hopeful that the breakthroughs that have occurred in the past 48 hours might help us in locating Noordin Top as well."

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer hailed Indonesia's latest strike against Jemaah Islamiyah.

"It's very important to get Asahari out of the scene," he said. " Azahari and his partner, Noordin Top, are the two most wanted terrorists in Southeast Asia."

Indonesia has convicted dozens of Jemaah Islamiyah militants on connection with the 2002 Bali bombings and subsequent attacks on Western targets in Jakarta.

But terrorism expert and author Ken Conboy cautions Azahari bin Husin's death does not end the threat of terrorism in Southeast Asia.

"It's better that he's out of the picture than in it," he said. " But the terrorism threat is by no means over. You've still got four more at the top of J.I. that need to be dealt with and all four of those guys are also very dangerous."

Azahari bin Husin studied mechanical engineering in Australia and received his doctorate degree in property evaluation from Reading University in Britain.

He taught at Malaysia's Johor University before fleeing his native Malaysia during a crackdown on Islamic militants in 2001.