Jemaah Islamiyah: The CIA Renditions

Posted by on Jun 10, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Jemaah Islamiyah: The CIA Renditions

Militants staged aggressive anti-American protests in Jakarta after the U.S. attacked terrorist targets in Afghanistan in October 2011. Several hundred Indonesians set out to fight American forces in Afghanistan despite official travel prohibitions. Groups in Surakarta and Jakarta threatened to “sweep” for Americans and westerners, although no one was harmed. Indonesian authorities recovered a fifteen-page document in Arabic and Indonesian, entitled “Operation Jihad in Asia,” detailing plans to bomb U.S. Embassies and western interests in Jakarta, Singapore and Malaysia. The document established a connection between Jemaah Islamiyah and al-Qaeda. While Jemaah Islamiyah was independent, it had common interests and cooperative ties to bin Laden’s organization.

The Singapore Internal Security Department had monitored Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and his followers for several years. In December, authorities arrested fifteen Jemaah Islamiyah members and another fifteen by mid-2002, uncovering explosives, weapons and plans to attack American service personnel, and to blow up the rail line and aqueduct between Malaysia and the city-state. Malaysia and the Philippines also arrested dozens of militants during the months after the September 11 attacks. Those held in Singapore and Malaysia were Mantiqi (Region) I members reporting to Hambali (Ridwan Nurjaman bin Isamuddin), who had gone into hiding in Bangkok. Indonesian bomb-maker Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi (“Mike the Bomber,” whose father had been a Komando Jihad member) was arrested in the Philippines on January 15. [1]

Indonesian leaders were reluctant to act against domestic militants. Even though Singapore and Malaysia had issued arrest warrants for Ba’asyir, the elderly cleric remained free. During January, he quipped, “The organization [Jemaah Islamiyah] does not exist. It is only a Koran reading group.” [2] The police summoned Ba’asyir on January 24, but released him a few hours later. Reacting to criticism from Singaporean officials, Police Detective Chief Engkesman Hillep retorted, “Singapore should not worry too much about Indonesia because Indonesian security forces are fighting international terrorism in their own way.” [3] In February, the police sent a team to Singapore and Malaysia to review evidence and interview Indonesian militants in custody but still found no basis to detain Ba’asyir. National Intelligence Agency (BIN) Chief Lieutenant General A.M. Hendropriyono kept the cleric and his Ngruki associates under surveillance. [4]

Vice President Hamzah Haz and others denied there were any terrorist cells in Indonesia with links to al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. Those denials came despite evidence provided by domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, including satellite photographs of a training camp in Central Sulawesi, abandoned after September 11, and accounts that Arab militants had trained at the camp. Indonesian investigators described the camp near Poso as a soccer field with a few modest buildings, possibly used earlier but long since abandoned. They were unable to confirm second hand reports about foreigners in the area. Although Washington cited satellite photography, details about the Poso camp apparently came from interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects. After American intelligence officers provided classified briefings about the Poso camp, authorities mounted a nationwide manhunt for the militant who ran the camp, Parlindungan Siregar.

Parlindungan Siregar had been a student at the Bandung Institute of Technology when he received a government scholarship to study aeronautical engineering in Madrid during the late-1980s. He was active in Islamic organizations and made contact with radicals connected to al-Qaeda. After more than a decade abroad, he returned to Indonesia in late-2000 or early-2001 and set up the Central Sulawesi training camp where about fifty mostly Arab volunteers underwent training every two to three months. Laskar Jundullah Commander Agus Dwikarna assisted. Siregar was forty-two years old when the camp was abandoned after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. [5] He was not a Jemaah Islamiyah member and remains at large.

BIN Chief Hendropriyono announced al-Qaeda had set up a training camp in Central Sulawesi. Vice President Hamzah Haz and Coordinating Minister Bambang Yudhoyono disputed those claims, apparently after briefings from military intelligence and the police. Cabinet members told visitors the government had found no evidence of any al-Qaeda or foreign jihadist presence in the country. Hendropriyono was forced to add bodyguards after getting death threats. Megawati told the BIN Chief to stop speaking about al-Qaeda due to the obvious political sensitivity. She ignored proposals from Army Chief General Endriartono Sutarto and Kostrad (Army Strategic Reserve) Commander Lieutenant General Ryamizard Ryacudu to arrest militant leaders and disband groups like Laskar Jihad and the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), but privately gave Hendropriyono the go-ahead to pursue foreign terrorist suspects.

Hendropriyono coordinated on a counterpart basis with the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Operating under his supervision, Army Special Forces (Kopassus) commandos captured al-Qaeda operative Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, a Pakistani traveling on an Egyptian passport, in East Jakarta on January 11, 2002. Two days later, with BIN cooperation but no police involvement, CIA officers bundled Madni out of the country on a charter jet to Egypt. Six months later, on June 5, the BIN-Kopassus anti-terrorist team apprehended the Kuwaiti Omar al-Farouq (photo inset), the senior al-Qaeda representative in Southeast Asia. He was discovered in Bogor, West Java. As a courtesy to the newly appointed Armed Forces Commander General Endriartono Sutarto and TNI Intelligence Agency (Bais) Chief Air Vice Marshal Ian Santoso, Bais officers were included on the team that arrested al-Farouq. Hendropriyono ignored Santoso’s insistence that al-Farouq should be interrogated in Indonesia and handed him over American intelligence officers who had another charter jet waiting at Jakarta’s Halim Air Base. Al-Farouq was “rendered” to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan without any involvement by law enforcement authorities. [6]

It took months for interrogators to break al-Farouq; by September he had revealed details about cooperation between al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah, and terrorist operations – the attacks on Indonesian churches, including the Christmas Eve 2000 bombing spree, plans to attack American Embassies in the region, to assassinate President Megawati Sukarnoputri, and to attack U.S. Navy and Marine Corps forces participating in an annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise in Surabaya. Washington closed embassies in high threat countries, including Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, on the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks. [7]

A Time magazine report revealing details about al-Farouq’s arrest, rendition and the results from his interrogation ignited a firestorm in Indonesia. The government was embarrassed. Coordinating Minister Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono falsely claimed al-Farouq had been arrested in a joint intelligence operation with the U.S., BIN and the police. Megawati instructed Hendropriyono to turn future suspects over to the police for interrogation. After that, the police and Bais were involved in the hunt for Hambali and other Jemaah Islamiyah operatives. On September 16, 2002, Indonesian intelligence arrested another suspected al-Qaeda member, Seyam Reda, an Arab with German citizenship. He was charged with immigration violations and deported. [8] Al-Farouq escaped from an Afghan prison in July 2005 and was killed by British troops in Basra, Iraq in September 2006.

[1] Ken Conboy, The Second Front: Inside Asia’s Most Dangerous Terrorist Network, (Jakarta: Equinox, 2006), pp. 158-159. A year later, after al-Ghozi escaped from a Manila prison, army troops shot him dead in Mindanao.

[2] Cited in Richard C. Paddock, “Indonesian Cleric Denies Link to Al-qaida Terror,” The Sun Sentinel, January 15, 2002.

[3] Cited in “No Evidence That Ba’asyir is Terrorist Leader: Police,” The Jakarta Post, February 25, 2002.

[4] Tatik S. Hafidz, The War on Terror and the Future of Indonesian Democracy (Singapore: Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, March 2003), p. 9.

[5] Conboy, The Second Front, pp. 159-160.

[6] Ibid, pp. 161-163 and 174-175, and Hafidz, The War on Terror, pp. 11-13.

[7] “Confessions of an Al-Qaeda Terrorist,” Time, September 23, 2002, and “The Terrorist Who Talked,” The Straits Times, November 3, 2002. CARAT is the annual series of bilateral naval training exercises between the United States Pacific Command and several Southeast Asian nations, including Indonesia.

[8] Hafidz, The War on Terror, p. 13.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *