The Indian Analyst

   The Saga of the Jemaah Islamiah

 Introduction – The Jemaah Islamiah and the war on terror - an Optimistic Perspective

Barely three years after the spectacular bombing in Bali island, Indonesia in October 2002, it seems that the Al Qaeda linked terrorist group, the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), has struck successfully again in the same area. Two explosions on seafood restaurants and a steakhouse on Jimbaran beach killed at least 25 people and wounded at least 100.[1] By this event, terrorists had proven that they hardly respects the rule of “Lightning never strikes the same spot twice”.

Earlier this year, two consecutive bomb attacks that killed at least 20 people, and injured more than 30 in the town of Tentena, Indonesia, was also attributed to the work of the JI.

The JI always has a knack for drawing a lot of attention on itself. It launched a number of high profile bombings against symbolic targets. First there was the Bali incident in 2002, next the Mariott Hotel bombing in 2003, the Australian embassy in Jakarta, 2004, and then the second Bali bombing in October 2005. All these highly-profiled bomb attacks took place in Indonesia. Indeed, Terrorism expert Dr. Rohan Gunaratna described this group as the South East Asian arm of Al Qaeda and has been clearly active in South East Asia. But are they truly that deadly, on par with the ruthlessness and professionalism displayed by Iraqi kidnapping terrorists or the Chechen terrorists of the Russian school hostage taking crisis?

JI closely resembles the Al Qaeda in its organizational structure, consisting of a horizontal network of secretive, compartmentalized cells existing in a number of countries in South East Asia. It is also known that its members are linked by sibling or  marriage ties. However, unlike the Al Qaeda, JI’s reach seems to be limited to South East Asia only.

At its zeith in the early 2000s, the JI had branches in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Australia, and the media also frequently reported updated information on the JI. These state governments have also outlawed JI and its members, suspects or known associates had been arrested periodically upon police investigations or through shared intelligence. Training camps had been discovered in Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia and were neutralized. In the Philippines, JI members were known to have used Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camps for training.

Unlike territorial insurgent groups like the MILF and Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines, and the now defunct Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) group in Indonesia, the JI controls neither territory nor enjoy popular and financial support from host populations. It is most active in Indonesia, where its radical Islamic ideology can be spread via madrassahs. Although it was responsible for several terrorist attacks in Indonesia, its efforts proved to be generally ineffective against the Indonesian government. Nor did the JI stage a successful serious terrorist attack outside Indonesia so far, with the exception in the Philippines in 2003.

Because of the JI’s links with Al Qaeda, and the fact that it lacked support from South East Asian populations, police crackdowns alone are physically enough to arrest and capture the members of this group.

In fact the JI’s choice of targets often ended up killing or injuring Indonesians in the process. Indirect damages were also inflicted on Indonesia’s embattled economy. The Bali and Marriott bombings were partly the reason why an estimated 40 million Indonesians remained unemployed. That hardly endears the JI’s cause to the Indonesian people. Security guard Djunaidi, an eye-witness at the Australian embassy bombing, summed up the sentiments of the people very well by asking the terrorists “not to kill the poor as their lives are hard enough”. It is obvious that the JI has blackened their own name among the Indonesian people. Even hardcore JI members like Azahiri bin Husin and Noordin Mohammed Top no longer admit their association with the JI.

The hardest parts in dealing with the JI problem are identifying, weeding out other JI sleeper cells and convicting the arrested ones. An estimated 200 JI members are arrested or dead out of membership of 3000 so far. Co-operation between intelligence agencies are therefore, the most crucial key when dealing with the JI.

Home made bombs and suicide terrorists  

Malaysian fugitive Azahiri Husin, a key JI member, who was killed in a shootout with Indonesian police in the Javanese resort town of Batu on 9 November 2005, was believed to have masterminded this year’s attacks by the JI and others, such as the 2003 Mariott Hotel bombing, and the 2004 Australian embassy bombing. Azahiri, like the deceased JI bomb expert Fathur Al-Ghozi, has knowledge on how to assemble a bomb. By using scientific laboratory methods, individually non-lethal chemicals can be combined to create dangerous customized weapons, called Improvised Explosives Devices (IEDs), for perpetrating terrorist acts.

If the JI was indeed responsible, it could be seen that this shadowy extremist group is hardly out of business, despite coming close to three years of enthusiastic crackdown on its infrastructure after the 2002 Bali bombing incident.

Earlier in March this year, four JI explosives expert, Rohmat alias Zaki, Mohammad Nasir Hamid, Mohammad Yusop Karim Faiz, and Ted Yolonda, were arrested in the Philippines.

Terrorism inspired by radical Islamic teachings has spread from the Middle East to South East Asia, and is best embodied by the clandestine JI network. The Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta last year was the work of three suicide bombers utilizing a car bomb. The Jemaah Isalmiah (JI) used a combination of three elements to hit the Australian embassy – home made explosives, weighing around 300 kg packed into a van driven and lastly detonated by suicide terrorists at the targeted place. It emulated successful suicide car bombing tactics in Iraq and its former Bali handiwork. 

Formerly, such exclusive technical knowledge belonged only to special troops or commandos whose jobs often require detailed and creative knowledge in making explosive devices using any available materials when they operate behind enemy lines. Special forces, therefore, in reality operate in a hostile environment at constant risk of their lives. Terrorists, however, can easily abort their intended operations and destroy all evidence without incurring physical harm nor break any laws.

Now such dangerous, classified knowledge is readily available for downloading from the Internet, allowing anyone to acquire bomb making skills without the unnecessary hassle and long years of training that military specialists must undergo. The Internet is an important vehicle in spreading bomb making knowledge as well as preparing chemical and biological based weapons. The implications of such open source knowledge are the churning out of numerous “wanna-be terrorists” capable of mounting crude but effective bomb, chemical and biological attacks. These “home made” weapons adopted by terrorists are assembled by procuring legally bought commercial chemicals and other required materials.

Before this “home made” aspect of the terrorist threat has been highlighted, many such chemicals are considered non-restricted, non military items in several countries. They can be bought off the shelf, or specially ordered and delivered by commercial suppliers. In fact, various industrial firms, fishing industries, schools and universities are regular consumers of such chemical products for educational, research and commercial purposes, playing a significant economic role in various affluent countries.  Fertilizer bombs, made from Ammonium Nitrate (NH4NO3), a chemical compound used in agriculture, are cheaply produced and remarkably simple in preparation and are becoming popular choice of weapons for terrorists. In the Philippines, recorded bomb incidents evidenced usage of military munitions paired to detonators and detonating cords and exploded with remote control devices, as an alternate improvised bomb making method. Police investigations in Indonesia had also uncovered the usage of another chemical compound, Potassium Chlorate (KClO3), used to produce explosives. Other materials include TNT, an incendiary material, and C4 plastic explosives.

Arrests of terrorist suspects in Britain last year, which foiled an intended chemical attack using the poison ricin, indicate sophisticated knowledge possessed by trained terrorists in bio-chemical technology. It also demonstrated easy infiltration of Al Qaeda linked militants into affluent societies like the British community under cover of seeking political asylum.

Police investigations since 2001 had also led to uncovering of secret JI training camps in Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines which provide the essential technical training in explosives for preparing future bomb attacks. Militants of Al Qaeda-linked groups such as the Jemaah Islamiah, Laskar Jundullah operating in Indonesia, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Abu Sayyaf Group in the Philippines are believed to have received training in such camps.

Why the Jemaah Islamiah stays a threat 

A cynical saying states that “Victories won in the field by soldiers are thrown away by civilians back home.” Such seems to be the case with legal trials involving the controversial activities of the JI after it reached international notoriety over the catastrophic Bali bombing incident, which killed 202 people in October 2002.

After almost three years of legal proceedings, Abu Bakar Bashir, the presumed spiritual leader of the JI, had finally been sentenced to two and a half years in prison. This sentence took effect last year, with the accumulated time Abu Bakar Bashir spent in custody to be included. In what was due to an act of amnesty for prisoners because of Indonesia’s Independence Day, Abu Bakar Bashir’s jail term was reduced by a further four and a half months. Thus, Bashir may well be freed by June 2006.[2]

This move announced by the Indonesian government has led to disappointment to many people, especially the families and relatives of victims killed during the Bali bombing incident. To these aggrieved victims’ relatives, the punishment allotted to Bashir did not correspond to the cleric’s role in influencing the impact and consequences of the Bali incident.

Bashir may well be let off lightly because all physical evidence showed that he was, indeed, not involved in either planning or executing of the prior terrorist acts by the JI. His function was that of inspiring others to commit the gruesome deed and as a religious ideologue.

Counter terrorism efforts by the police may likely be wasted because of the Indonesian juridical system and complications of legal procedures. The Indonesian legal system, sadly, is unable to strike fear into terrorists’ hearts, and thus produce a deterrent effect on would be terrorists. This view is also shared by Indonesian intelligence chief Mr. Abdullah Hendropriyono, who argued for tougher anti-terrorism laws and also said that the current criminal justice system cannot deter terrorists from acting. Thus, this was what led to the Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta in September the previous year.

Indonesian legal authorities allowed the convicted Bali bombers, Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Mukhlas as well as the JI spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir, to appeal against their sentences. This earlier development has aroused controversy on the question whether those who perpetuate terrorist acts should be just treated simply as just armed criminals in the eyes of the law. The Indonesian court later also charged Bashir over the 2003 Mariott Hotel bombing. The legal proceedings are certainly baffling to the public who may not know all the inner workings of the court.

Is it justified then for the Bali terrorists to be tried by the Indonesian justice system? Apparently, the answer is yes. The Bali bombing took place on Indonesian soil. The perpetrators were caught by Indonesian police. The culprits and even some of the bomb victims were Indonesian in nationality. Clearly, this case was purely an Indonesian affair. Who, then, can dispute the right of Indonesia to bring the Bali bombing culprits to justice? Indonesia, naturally, must take on the responsibility of holding a fair trial and resolution of the Bali affair.

After all, the alarm raised from the possibility of terrorist attacks from the Jemaah Islamiah had galvanized other regional governments into implementing effective police response over the recent years.  Since 2001, South East Asian states had responded to the JI threat by enthusiastic crackdowns, arresting scores of suspects, uncovering and confiscation of weapon caches and the elimination of JI training camps. Important cadre like Hambali, Abu Bakar Bashir and a host of other regional cell leaders of the JI web had already been arrested and are held in custody. Indonesia itself had contributed the lion’s share in tracking and arresting terrorist suspects, especially since the JI originated, centered is most active in Indonesia. With so much state attention focused on them, the Jemaah Islamiah had to lie low for quite some time. The Indonesian authorities certainly think that legal measures alone are definitely enough in dealing with the terrorist problem, and are reasonably justified in thinking so.

However, if the stated goals of this clandestine group were examined closely, the JI’s political ambitions are not limited to merely Indonesia alone. The White Paper published by the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the JI aimed to establish a Daulah Islamiah, or Islamic state, encompassing Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Brunei. The JI meant to do so through their jihad, or armed struggle against secular enemies.

What if the JI should succeed in its goals? It will have spelt the destruction of all secular governments in South East Asia, with the erasing of national boundaries. Socially, it will also mean the end of our current way of life, with respect and tolerance for different racial cultures, religious practices, and economic freedom. The JI, like its parent organization, the Al Qaeda, possessed a narrow interpretation of Islam into political and social administration of a country, with only uncompromising and strict application of the Islamic shuria law. The Taleban government in Afghanistan is a clear example of a nation state under such extremist theological rule. 

Indonesia’s juridical system of skillful juggling of the often-ambiguous definitions of armed crime and terrorism, is unique. Abu Bakar Bashir’s light sentence and subsequent sentence reduction is a case in point. While he remains behind bars, other dangerous operatives actively engaged in planning and execution of terrorist attacks, such as Noordin Top, remains at large. To survive in an unsympathetic environment of government crackdowns, the JI has splintered into several much smaller radical groups such as the Battalion Abu Bakar, Korps Cakrabuana and the Kompi F.[3]

It took the Bali bombing incident and a subsequent 202 deaths to convince Indonesia into admitting that terrorist groups were active within its borders. The Jemaah Islamiah may well be gone tomorrow, but there will always be other radical or splinter groups to take its place.

States in South East Asia must not be complacent and let down its guard. Also, unless Indonesia comes up with a more comprehensive legal system effective in deterring radical Islamic views that translates into implemented terrorist acts, the roots of the terrorism problem certainly will not go away in the near future. 

Troubled Thai South an ideal choice for a JI base ? 

In March 2005, in what was yet another incident of escalating militant violence in southern Thailand, suspected Islamic rebels ambushed a train with authorities on board, by exploding two bombs and opening fire. At least 19 people were wounded.[4]  It would seem, that the military capabilities of Thai militants have improved, no doubt with external help.

Previously, a US academic, Zachary Abuza, professor at Boston’s Simmons College, has cited that the South East Asian terror network, the Jemaah Islamiah (JI), could well be aiding the militant Thai separatist group, Gerakan Mujahideen Islam Pattani (GMIP).

Thailand has officially denied such an allegation, but should the JI be later discovered to have formed a clandestine alliance with the GMIP, it will hardly be surprising at all.

In the past, Thailand had managed to keep terrorism and other social disturbances in check while the rest of South East Asia cracked down hard on Islamic radicals with extremist ideologies and international links with terrorist networks such as the Al Qaeda. The JI, especially, had been earmarked as the South East Asian arm of the Al Qaeda. After the Bali bombing in October 2002, Indonesia also moved to arrest and eradicate JI cells and   training camps within its territories. Hambali, the JI operations chief and a key figure in the JI organization, was arrested in Thailand in August 2003.

The social unrest in Thai’s southern provinces, in which Muslims form the majority in a pre-dominantly Buddhist nation, reached international attention when a controversial incident surrounding the deaths of protestors in Tak Bai, occurred. What started off as a gathering of Muslims outside a police station protesting the arrest of six Thai Muslims ended tragically with 87 dead, of whom 78 were in police custody. The entire fiasco could be summed up as a regrettably mishandled incident on the side of the Thai police, yet it provided fertile ground for a radical group like the Jemaah Islamiah to flame up unrest and win over supporters to their cause. This is because the Thai government has previously answered violence with military force. In April 2004, for example, 113 people died during the military and police crackdowns when militants raged across southern Thailand with guns and machetes. By the end of 2005, the growing southern Thai insurgency has claimed at least 1000 people’s lives.[5]

The southern Thai Muslims rightly feel discriminated and marginalized, in part because the Thai government adopts all too direct heavy handed measures. In early 2005, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced plans of allocating financial aid by differentiating villages in the southern provinces according to their loyalties. This policy move was met with an avalanche of criticisms and protests both domestic and abroad. Mr. Thaksin had to declare scrapping such plans subsequently later in February 2005, in light of the intense opposition and unpopularity.

 As a result, there is potential great danger in that, despite regional efforts by other South East Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia and Singapore to crackdown on, uproot and destroy the JI, the latter may well adopt the southern Thailand as an ideal hiding place. Like the phoenix, the radical network may then rise anew from the ashes with the help of incensed and seething locals who had suffered at the hands of the Thai police or military. This is aided by the compounding of errors when the Thai government pursues its counterterrorism policies. All that is required are the presence of a few hardcore and fanatical cadre such as Hambali, Nurdin Mohammed Top and Azahari bin Husin, (who allegedly plotted and directed the Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta in 2004). In the words of Osama bin Laden himself, such a response is like “a cartoon character using a shotgun to kill a fly.”

The Thai government must proceed with even more caution from now on. Some stopgap measures must immediately be adopted for the short term. One way to do so is to hold communal talks with Muslim leaders and community elders. Another is to enlist and incorporate Muslim youth into police or military forces to aid in investigative and intelligence work. It is, however, necessary to integrate the Thai Muslim communities into mainstream Thai society in both cultural and economic terms for the long term. Persistence in applying only overt forceful measures simply is not the answer to address the armed insurgency problem in Thailand’s deep south.

Azahiri Husin’s unanimous end a lesson for would be terrorists

 News of the infamous bomb-maker Azahari Husin of the JI network being surrounded by Indonesian police and making a last stand in the Javanese resort town of Batu came as a surprise to many.[6] It is even more so that merely just over a month after the second Bali bombing in October 1st, 2005, Indonesian police had caught up with the fugitive Azahari Husin. It is testimony to the speed and efficiency of the Indonesian security forces in going after those commit terrorist acts.

Azahari apparently was killed in the shootout with Indonesian police or died in an explosion detonated by himself or another militant with him.[7]

Modern terrorist organizations bear uncanny resemblance to Asian triad organizations in terms of office bearers. A triad’s highest office is the longtao, or Dragon Head, who heads the organization. Other important positions include the chohoi, or Grass Sandals, who do co-ordination work, also resembling operations chiefs in terrorist organizations, the tzesin, or Paper Fan, the intellectual brains advising the longtao, and the hungkuan, or Red Poles, the field enforcers or directors of operations in the field.[8]

The hungkuan, incidentally, correspond in many similar ways to terrorist operatives who carry out the physical attacks themselves, such as planning of field operations, suicide bombings and other supportive logistics. The nature of Azahari’s work with the JI, makes him akin to being a hungkuan.

Azahari was believed to be responsible for masterminding the Bali bombings in 2002, as well as the 2003 Mariott Hotel bombing and the Australian embassy bombing in 2004.[9] His name rose to media prominence after JI operations chief Hambali Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin was arrested in August 2003, becoming the next most important JI character to look out for.

But in terms of “ranking” among infamous militants in the 21st century, Azahari remains as merely one out of many terrorist hungkuan neutralized in the field. Other once infamous names of people involved in terrorism such as Ramzi Ahmed Yusof and Khalid Shiek Mohammed have also been generally forgotten by the public once they were neutralized or placed behind bars.

The JI which rose to prominence in 2002 after the infamous Bali bombings,  subsequently its impact on society was severely limited as the organization underwent severe crackdowns in Southeast Asia and especially in its home country, Indonesia, with many of its secretive cells broken up, its operatives and members arrested and jungle training camps discovered and neutralized. Another such camp was discovered in Maluku province in a simultaneous development.[10]

The sudden death of Azahari Husin could also well spell the end of the effectiveness of the JI network as a clandestine terror organization. Other key JI figures, such the longtao Abu Bakir Bashir, and chohoi Hambali are either serving jail sentences or in police custody respectively. Another JI bomb-maker or hungkuan, Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi was also killed in a shoot-out with Philippine police in October 2003.[11] With many of its other cadre and ranking leaders dead or arrested, the JI could well be taken off media attention with time. This is in contrast to news of other militant groups’ longtao Abu Musab al Zarqawi of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Osama bin Laden of the Al Qaeda network itself and tzesin Ayman al Zawahiri, who are reportedly still alive and at large.

History, it seems, is the ultimate judges in deciding the ranking of famous characters who made an impact on the world’s affairs. Achievements made even by notorious people, such as criminals, terrorists or tyrants, are also measured in terms of how much damage was done to nation and society and casualties inflicted. Thus will mention of a character be determined as to whether it will occupy entire chapters or even books or just to be regulated to that of a footnote.

Like any of those faceless Islamic militants in Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Iraq and other conflict rife zones, or Asian gangsters wielding guns attempting to escape the law, an undoubtedly brilliant intellectual mind belonging to such as Azahari can still eventually be reduced to that of the status of a hunted fugitive. Had an intelligent man like Azahari used his talents for more constructive purposes, he could have contributed much to society in his previous profession as a university lecturer or in some other occupation. Azahari Husin’s unanimous end, surrounded and cornered in a hideout and dying in a shoot-out with police, is a clear and painful lesson for those who are susceptible and falls prey to subtle radical teachings of Islam. His death is an obvious warning to all never to get involved with subversive militant activity, which will eventually lead to an unanimous end.

Militant groups must be denounced as religious heretics

In mid November 2005, shortly after the gun battle spelling the end of Azahari, a videotape showing a hooded man, widely suspected to be the JI fugitive Noordin Mohammed Top making specific threats on Western countries, like Australia, were shown to top Muslim leaders in Indonesia.[12] The tape had a sombering effect on Islamic religious authorities in Indonesia, who unanimously denounced that terrorism was un-Islamic.[13] The message-broadcasting style was similar to Iraqi militants engaged in hostage kidnapping and beheading acts, and also the occasional videotaped appearances of al Qaeda terrorists Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri. This demonstrated convincingly of links between the JI’s activity patterns and international Islamic terror network, the Al Qaeda.  

Indonesia has continuously been embarrassed by the terror acts of a handful of terrorists from the JI, a group with definite Indonesian origins and made up mostly by members of Indonesian nationality. From 2000 onwards, the JI directly killed at least 316 people through its bomb attacks, and injuring hundreds in total.[14] These terror attacks occurred mostly only in Indonesia, despite the fact that the JI once maintained a presence in many South East Asian countries, like Singapore, Malaysia or the Philippines.

The name of the JI itself, could give rise to a sensitive issue. “Jemaah Islamiah” meant “Islamic community” and could refer to the entire Muslim faith, which almost constitutes the whole Indonesian population. As a consequence, even after the second Bali bombing, the Indonesian government had to remain prudent, not banning the organization bearing the name of JI, and choosing instead not to recognize the group.[15]  However, in truth, an extremist group had hijacked a name which is generally used and with a pious ring around it. The deeds of the JI however, are hardly representative of Islam as a religion at all.

It is futile that representatives of mainstream Islamic religious authorities keep coming forward occasionally to claim innocence or protest diversion from the activities of terrorist groups, insisting instead that Islam is not terrorism. To non Muslims, the truth is nevertheless, clear that unarmed civilians did, indeed, lost their lives in suicide bombings and other attacks which are pertained to militant groups with Muslims as members.

Hard evidence yielded from arrested terror suspects on occasion revealed that the masterminds behind the terror acts did intend to target certain groups of people considered among Muslim extremists as enemies of Islam. The Mombasa hotel bombings in 2002 were meant to kill and injure Israeli tourists. A shoulder launched missile was fired unsuccessfully by an Al Qaeda linked militant at an Israeli passenger airline in the same incident. US embassies were bombed by terrorists in Kuwait, Iraq, Tanzania, Kenya, Lebanon, Uzbekistan and Pakistan from 1979 to the present day, clearly demonstrating the intent to hurt US interests and its relations with host countries.

The arrested Bali bomber Amrozi revealed under custody that the 2002 Bali bombings were meant to kill as many Australians as possible. It is understandable that Australia was indeed, angered by such deeds and will not remain appeased nor would many of its non Muslim citizens be convinced that the religion of Islam is a peaceful one.                        

Indonesian society must see the truth of the activities of the JI and its adherents. The JI’s ambitions know no bounds, and their goals are in concert with other Islamic militants active in Iraq and Afghanistan, where unarmed civilians die at the latter’s hands through suicide bombings, beheadings or massacres. These are atrocities against mankind regardless of religion or political ideology, which cannot be justified nor condoned in any nation or society. Such gruesome facts, however, are conveniently omitted when propaganda-like videos such as this abovementioned example are released to potential recruits and supporters of the militant group. Nor is the fact that a substantial number of Muslims have also died in suicide bombings and other terrorist acts all over the world. 

Instead, one sided arguments citing facts that the United States and its allies maintaining their presence in Muslim countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, are portrayed as sacrilege to Islam or as colonization in disguise.[16] Again such messages are taken at face value by many as the truth, but are in fact cleverly marketed and argued causes to convince the vast majority of Muslims into believing the righteousness of militant groups like the JI or the Al Qaeda.

What can be done? 

Terrorism is not merely confined simply to an act of violent crime. A violent act of terrorism, like a staged bombing, is merely a means to political ends, a singular and distinct effort in a long militant campaign designed to undermine and bring down the reigning government. Involvement in relevant activities, such as sympathizing and perpetration of radical teachings, financial support, organization and procurement of necessary bomb making materials, in truth, also constitute terrorism. Therefore, the resultant violence of a terrorist act may have much wider political impact and implications. The various hostage crises in a post Saddam Iraq are clear examples of terrorists having the power to force state governments into compliance of their demands. If states are complacent about on the security issue, similar scenarios of giving in and being manipulated by terrorists may well take place as well.              

Physical measures

Arrests and elimination of the suspected few hundred kilograms of explosives in JI possession are merely the first step in a short term solution to the terrorist threat. For a long term solution, the removal of detailed chemical knowledge necessary for bomb making from Internet web sites, is ultimately necessary. Sales of potential chemical materials for making explosives must be closely monitored by state governments. Targeting of who among the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) has such technical expertise, such as Azahiri Husin, Fathur Al-Ghozi and Rohmat, must be identified and arrested to prevent them from instructing others in the technical know-how. Lastly, the cause of the terrorists must be discredited and the people convinced that terrorism brings more harm than good to their lives.

Unlike terrorists in Iraq, the JI’s capability has been curtailed severely through counter terrorism efforts. The war on terror against the JI can be won, if state governments have the will to sustain counter terrorism enforcement.

State governments can provide the necessary muscle to weed out terrorist cells, infrastructure as well as track down terrorist operatives involved in bombings and other crimes. But convincing the masses at the grassroots’ level is a totally different ball game altogether.

Political Measures

In spite of the latest terrorist attack at Bali in 2005, JI apparently still has not reached the strength or capability yet to carry out violent attacks on a frequency akin to the MILF, Abu Sayyaf or GAM. Key JI figures, such as Azahiri bin Husin, Abu Bakar Bashir, and Hambali, are either on the run, dead or in police custody. JI technical experts such as Fathur Al-Ghozi and Rohmat have either been arrested or were mostly eliminated. The JI has only staged occasional bombings so far, but not kidnapping, guerilla warfare, or massacres that can challenge security forces directly and openly defy the government. However, if ignored, the JI may well cause significant damage to the recovering economy of South East Asia through its terrorist acts.

Given enough time, and provided that the Asian economic situation does not deteriorate further, it is likely that the JI may eventually cease operations if state governments keep up the crack downs and pressure on their members on the run. The examples set by Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines on the crackdown of the JI should be emulated by other nations as well.

States must not play into the terrorists’ hands by straining relations because of the JI’s disruptive activities. After the Tentena bombing, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono adopted the correct measure by having publicly ordered the Indonesian police to get to the bottom of the matter. With developments toward establishing a permanent peaceful settlement in Aceh Province, more troops and police forces are freed for Jakarta to be redeployed in even more detailed sweeps and search operations to root out JI cells and their adherents.

Intelligence and security forces should work even more closely together to eliminate this threat.

Religious Measures

It is also the onus of the Islamic religious authorities in Indonesia, to take the lead in denouncing militant groups like the JI as being heretics of the religion. Education of the community is the first step in eradicating pervasive influence among Muslim populations. By keeping silent on the issue, more deaths among Muslims as well as non-Muslims will be indirectly caused. If the good name of Islam, as one of the great religions of the world, is to be restored, it is up to the present day Muslim clergy to unite together and do something substantial.

It may take years, but it can be done.  

REFERENCES,20051007-67681,id.html,ip,url,uid&db=aph&an=12738534,20050201-21,id.html,20041221-45,id.html obeti.html,1,56,id.html,1280,-5429474,00.html,1280,-5402667,00.html,1282,-5398011,00.html,15935,1590525,00.html

[2] “Indonesia reduces Bashir’s jail term.” The Straits Times 18/08/05

[3] “JI cells ‘still as deadly.’ ” The Straits Times 01/04/2005

[4] “Train Ambushed in Southern Thailand” The Straits Times 27/03/2005

[6] “JI bomb maker killed.” The Straits Times 10/11/05

[8] Paul Elliot,  Warrior Cults : A History of Magical, Mystical and Murderous Organizations (UK: Blandford Press, 1996) p.163

Senator John Kerry, The New War - The War of Crime that Threatens America’s Security (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997) p. 56

[10] “Jakarta uncovers terrorist camp.” The Straits Times 10/11/05

[12] “Fugitive Noordin may be behind chilling warning.” The Straits Times 18/11/2005

[13] “Muslim leaders shown terror video in Jakarta.” The Straits Times 18/11/2005

[14] Figures added up from “Cops finger Bashir for first time.” The Sunday Times 20/06/2004 and included the casualties from the Australian embassy bombings, Tentena, Manila bus bombing and the 2005 Bali bombings.  

[15] “Why Indonesia cannot ban the JI” TODAY 10/11/05

[16] “Fugitive Noordin may be behind chilling warning.” The Straits Times 18/11/05

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