Jemaah Islamiyah: Damaged but Dangerous

Posted by on Jul 16, 2018 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Jemaah Islamiyah: Damaged but Dangerous

By mid-2003, eight months after the Bali attacks, Jemaah Islamiyah had fallen to about a hundred hard-core militants, most based in Central and East Java. The group shelved plans for a Southeast Asian caliphate, returning to the more traditional Darul Islam aim to create an Islamic State. Ties to al-Qaeda were scaled back, if not severed. The new Jemaah Islamiyah leader, Abu Dujana (Ainul Bahri), had trained in the Pakistan and Afghanistan camps and was an instructor at Camp Abu Bakar in Mindanao before it was shut down in May 2000. Faced with the wave of arrests, he cautiously regrouped elements on Java, abandoned plans to attack western targets and turned to recruiting for the anti-Christian jihad in Central Sulawesi.

The intensive crackdowns in Indonesia and neighboring countries convinced Abu Dujana and most Jemaah Islamiyah leaders that large, spectacular attacks like Bali were costly and counterproductive because they generated public outrage and harsh retaliation. Rather than attract new followers, such attacks undermined support for an Islamic super-state. Essentially, Jemaah Islamiyah became a domestic group encompassing the old Mantiqi II (Java, Sumatra, Kalimantan and Sulawesi). Survivors in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines remained in hiding, while an estimated two dozen militants, including Bali bomb-maker Dulmatin and Umar Patek, had taken refuge with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mindanao. [1]

Around twenty radical pesantren, mostly on Java, served as incubators for militant recruits and platforms to spread jihadist gospel. The Hidayatullah Pesantren near Balikpapan, East Kalimantan and Pondok Pesantren Darul Aman in Makassar, South Sulawesi were part of the radical pesantren network. Jemaah Islamiyah had a small presence in Central Sulawesi before the Bali attack. Violence increased sharply in late-2003 after hundreds of fresh volunteers arrived with high-powered firearms and bomb-making skills. The group established a training camp near Ampana, a coastal settlement northeast of Poso, and set about to undermine the Malino accord through bomb attacks and assassinations targeting Christian leaders, local officials and the police, along with armed robberies of non-believers (fa’i) to raise funds. Darul Islam had legitimized fa’i by promising absolution to perpetrators since their criminal actions were for jihad. Jemaah Islamiyah adopted fa’i despite its questionable basis in the Qur’an. [2]

In early-2003, a splinter group led by Noordin Mohammad Top and his assistant, Dr. Azhari Husin, both Malaysian nationals, broke with Abu Dujana. Both men had been hiding in Sumatra. Top and Azhari had studied at the Malaysia University of Technology; both were students at Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba’asyir’s Lukmanul Hakiem pesantren in Johore before joining the terrorist group. Azhari had been a mechanical engineering professor at the university. After military training in Pakistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, he became a bomb-making instructor at Camp Abu Bakar in Mindanao, while Noordin Top chaired the Lukmanul Hakiem pesantren before authorities shut down the radical Islamic school in early-2002.

Noordin Top fled to Riau and settled in Bukittinggi, where he opened an automobile repair shop. Dr. Azhari and Jemaah Islamiyah comrades from Malaysia joined him. They relocated to Bengkulu, South Sumatra after the Bali bombings. Citing emergency conditions, Top and his small group chose to operate outside the Jemaah Islamiyah structure. His simplistic philosophy was, “Our enemies will destroy us if we don’t destroy them first.” [3] Top and Azhari had access to a large cache of explosives – two tons of dynamite, detonating cord, black powder and blasting caps. They supplemented money received from Hambali before his arrest with proceeds from a bank robbery. After considering targets in the Indonesian capital – the Jakarta and Australian International Schools, Citibank offices and the new J.W. Marriott Hotel – they decided on the hotel because it was the easiest target. [4]

Located in the posh Central Jakarta Kuningan neighborhood, the American-branded Marriott had a horseshoe-shaped driveway, perfect for a car bomb approach. The glass-walled lobby and coffee shop faced the driveway. Top recruited the suicide bomber and Azhari assembled the car bomb from a battered Toyota Kijang utility van packed with dynamite. The Marriott attack was launched midday, around 12:45 p.m., on Tuesday, August 5, 2003. The banged up Toyota did not fit with the hotel’s upscale clientele. When a security guard approached, the nervous driver triggered the explosives just after the van had entered the driveway (photo inset). The damage would have been worse if the car bomb had exploded closer to the entrance. Twelve died and about 150 were hospitalized. Most victims were Indonesians, many chauffeurs and taxi drivers waiting in front of the hotel. [5]

It was the second major terror attack in ten months. BIN Chief Lieutenant General Abdullah Mahmud Hendropriyono, Defense Minister Matori Abdul Djalil and Home Affairs Minister Lieutenant General Hari Sabarno pressed for more potent anti-terrorism powers similar to the Singapore and Malaysia Internal Security Acts. Popular opposition prevented further strengthening the Anti-Terrorism Law passed just four months earlier. After the Bali attacks, the U.S. State Department Anti-Terrorist Assistance (ATA) program had provided funding and training for a larger, more capable police counter-terrorist force, later known as Special Detachment 88 (Densus 88). Apparently, the name was adopted after a senior police official misunderstood the abbreviation “A-T-A” as the number “eighty-eight.” Since the number eight is considered lucky in Indonesian culture, the designation stuck. [6] Led by police Brigadier General Pranowo Dahlan, Special Detachment 88 included technical investigators, explosive ordnance disposal experts and a hostage rescue team.

Since the new police unit was still in training when the Marriott bombing took place, the police created an ad hoc National Bomb Task Force led by Brigadier General Gregorius “Gories” Mere, a dynamic Catholic officer from Flores in East Indonesia. Mere had worked with the Australian Federal Police to round up the Bali bombing suspects. President Megawati Sukarnoputri approved including Army Special Forces (Kopassus) members on Mere’s task force. [7] With Australian assistance, the task force traced the Toyota Kijang and obtained a sketch of the buyers. The suicide bomber was identified as Sam, a Ngruki graduate from Bengkulu. The police arrested most of the foot soldiers, but Noordin Top and Dr. Azhari escaped the dragnet. Gores Mere was later dismissed and his task force disbanded after he was caught escorting convicted Bali Bomber Ali Imron to a Central Jakarta Starbucks. [8]

Megawati met U.S. President George W. Bush on October 22 in the White House. Once more, the principal topic was the Global War on Terror. In the months after the Marriott bombing, Noordin Top and Dr. Azhari linked up with Kang Jaja, another militant associated with a splinter Darul Islam group (Ring Banten) in Banten, West Java. Jaja had sent followers to fight in Maluku and Central Sulawesi, and was happy to collaborate with Top and Azhari. The three decided the next target would be the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, less than two kilometers from the Marriott Hotel. The Embassy was tightly guarded but lacked stand-off from the heavily-trafficked Jalan Rasuna Said thoroughfare it faced. One of Jaja’s men, Heri Gulon, was pressed to volunteer for the suicide mission.

Top and Azhari had money left over from the Marriott operation and Kang Jaja had six boxes of dynamite. They purchased a Daihatsu box truck in Jakarta and 500 kilograms of fertilizer. Azhari again assembled the fertilizer bomb, using the dynamite as a booster charge. After driving lessons, Heri Gulon piloted the truck bomb into the front gate at the Australian Embassy late morning on September 9, 2004, just four days after Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was elected Indonesia’s sixth president. The bomb killed twelve and injured 180, almost all Indonesians unfortunate enough to be passing on the busy street. No Australian nationals were killed or injured. Widows were blown out in nearby high-rise buildings. Police quickly determined Top and Azhari had masterminded the attack. [9]

The Jemaah Islamiyah split was exacerbated by the fact that most victims in the Marriott and Australian Embassy attacks were local Muslims. With no more than a few dozen hard-core followers, Noordin Top formalized the divorce, at various times labeling his splinter group “al-Qaeda for the Malay Peninsula,” Anshar el-Muslimin (Arabic for “Muslim Followers”) or Thoifah Muqotilah (Arabic for “Fighting Force”). [10] He and Azhari linked up with Abdullah Sunata’s Kompak (Komite Aksi Penanggulangan Akibat Krisis, literally “Crisis Management Committee”) militia. Sunata had run training camps for Muslim vigilantes on Buru and Seram Islands in Maluku between 1999 and 2004. His men, mostly from South Sulawesi, had combat experience in Maluku and Poso, and were eager to support Top’s plans for another suicide bombing even though they had no ties to al-Qaeda. [11] Early Saturday evening, October 1, 2005, nearly three years after the original Bali bombings, three suicide bombers set off backpack bombs at Kuta and Jimbaran Beach nightspots, killing themselves and twenty-three innocents, injuring another hundred. Noordin Top and Azhari were quickly identified as the masterminds.

TNI Commander General Endriartono Sutarto vowed to revitalize the territorial intelligence function to support the fight against terrorism. Anti-terrorism desks were established at the regional and resort commands to process reports from subordinate units. [12] Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said territorial units would act as “eyes and ears” for the government and strengthen its capability to prevent terrorist attacks. “People have realized that we have to use the territorial command to assist the war against terrorism. It is part of the total defence and security system involving the military, police and the people, stated by the constitution.” [13] In December 2006, Home Affairs Minister Mohammad Ma’roef established a new Regional Intelligence Agency (Komando Intelijens Daerah, Kominda) to coordinate local anti-terrorism efforts. President Yudhoyono endorsed the new grass-roots intelligence program despite critics who warned of a return to New Order practices. Kominda served a similar function to the Soeharto-era Bakorstanas security agency, which President Abdurrahman Wahid had dissolved in March 2000.

Densus 88 killed Noordin Top’s deputy, Dr. Azhari Husin, in a shootout on November 9, 2005 and arrested eight of Top’s followers in Semarang, Central Java. During a predawn raid in Wonosobo, Central Java on April 29, 2006, police shot and killed two from Top’s inner circle and captured two more. By early-2007, with fresh volunteers from the radical pesantren network, Abu Dujana’s Jemaah Islamiyah had grown to about 900 members. [14] During March 2007 raids in Central and East Java, Densus 88 arrested seven Jemaah Islamiyah militants, killed an eighth, and captured a large cache of weapons, explosives and documents. The police captured Abu Dujana on June 9 in Banyumas District, Central Java and recovered two explosives and weapons caches. Abu Dujana was shot twice in the leg. In April 2008, the thirty-seven year old militant was sentenced to fifteen years in prison for aiding terrorists and possessing illegal firearms and explosives.

After a lengthy appeals process, a police firing squad executed Bali bombers Imam Samudra, Mukhlas (Ali Gufron) and Amrozi just after midnight on November 9, 2008. The executions took place on Nusakambangan Island, where they had been imprisoned. Each defiantly shouted “Allahu Akbar” before his death. Brothers Ali Gufron and Amrozi’s bodies were flown by helicopter to their home in Tenggulan village, Lamongan, East Java, while Samudra’s remains were interred in Serang, West Java. Hundreds of mourners carrying banners reading “welcome martyrs” were present in both places to witness the burial ceremonies. Jemaah Islamiyah godfather Abu Bakar Ba’asyir led prayers for Ali Gufron and Amrozi in Tenggulan as hundreds of onlookers clashed with police. [15]

Lesser Bali players Ali Imron, Mubarok, Roican, Sawad and Abdul Ghani were sentenced to life in prison. By mid-2009, the police had arrested over 300 militants affiliated with Jemaah Islamiyah and killed dozens more. It appeared support from al-Qaeda had ended although Noordin Top continued to find new recruits. On July 17, 2009, Top and his small band once more mounted suicide bombing attacks at two American-owned hotels in Central Jakarta, the Jakarta Marriott (a second time) and the Ritz-Carlton, both in the upscale Kuningan neighborhood, just six kilometers from the Palace. Along with the two bombers, seven died (three Australians, two from the Netherlands, and one each from New Zealand and Indonesia); more than fifty were injured. In a change of tactics, the bombers had checked into the luxury hotels as paying guests several days earlier.

Police captured Noordin Top’s deputy, Amir Abdillah, on August 5; during interrogation, he revealed a plot to assassinate President Yudhoyono at his home in Cikeas, near Bogor. Abdillah provided information about two safe houses, one in Jakarta’s eastern Bekasi suburb and a second at a farmhouse in Temanggung, Central Java, on the slopes of Mount Sumbing between Magelang and Ambarawa. Believing Noordin Top was hiding in Temanggung, Densus 88 sharpshooters surrounded the farmhouse. In a firefight that started Friday night, August 7, and continued through Saturday morning, the anti-terror team barraged the farmhouse with gunfire, culminating with a huge explosion rigged by the bomb squad. The seventeen-hour siege was carried live on television. DNA tests showed the mangled body inside the demolished farmhouse was not Noordin Top. [16] Military leaders mocked the clumsy operation. “We could have done it with six men and a dog – and brought him out alive,” said one army officer. [17] Police killed two more terror suspects at the Bekasi safe house. Densus 88 finally killed Noordin Top during a raid in Surakarta on September 17.

On February 22, 2010, police raided a militant training camp in remote, heavily forested northwest Aceh after a villager reported suspicious activity in the area. Three Police Mobile Brigade (Brimob) troops and one terrorist died in the shootout. Most of the estimated 120 militants escaped but the police recovered a wealth of evidence. By mid-April, Densus 88 had rounded up forty-eight suspects and killed eight others, including Bali bomb-maker Dulmatin, upon whose head the U.S. had placed a $10 million bounty. Police made more arrests in the weeks that followed. [18]

Dulmatin’s assistant, Umar Patek, who had helped with the July 2009 Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton bombings, fled to Pakistan after the Aceh camp raid. He was arrested in Abbottabad in January 2011 and extradited to Indonesia. Abbottabad was the same town where Osama bin Laden had sought refuge before U.S. Navy Seal Team Six raided his compound and killed the al-Qaeda commander on May 2, 2011, just four months after Patek’s arrest. It is not clear if there was any connection between the two jihadists. Umar Patek expressed remorse during his trial; he apologized to his victims’ families, Christians and the government. In June 2012, the West Jakarta District Court sentenced him to twenty years in prison. [19]

Abu Bakar Ba’asyir’s Ngruki pesantren continued to operate with about 2,000 students, including the children of dead and convicted Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists. Ba’asyir formed a new organization in October 2008, the Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT), ostensibly to focus on religious education and shari’a law. Like Jemaah Islamiyah, JAT members were later implicated in bank robberies and attacks on the security forces. Ba’asyir and JAT helped organize and fund the Aceh training camp that police raided in February 2010. He was arrested once more in December 2010, convicted in June 2011 of terrorist activities and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. The sentence was reduced to nine years on appeal but the Supreme Court annulled the lower court ruling and reinstated the original fifteen-year sentence.

Having grown to more than 400 men, Densus 88 was increasingly accused of shooting first and asking questions later. Muslims complained the elite force employed brutal tactics and tortured suspects. After he was elected president in 2004, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono allowed greater military involvement in the anti-terrorism mission. He approved a limited role for Kopassus to work with Densus 88 in tracking down militants. Those efforts accelerated after the July 2009 Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton bombings, Yudhoyono’s election to a second term, the assassination plot against him, and the discovery of the Aceh training camp.

In September 2010, President Yudhoyono established the National Anti-Terrorism Agency (Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Terrorisme, BNPT) to coordinate intelligence and prevention activities among different agencies. BNPT gave the military a formal stake in the anti-terror mission. Major General Ansyaad Mbai was the BNPT Chief. Army Deputy Assistant for Territorial Affairs Major General Agus Surya Bakti headed the Prevention and De-radicalization Branch. Mbai had headed the anti-terrorism desk at the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs office since December 2002. He pressed for greater anti-terrorism powers and longer sentences for those convicted.

In March 2012, Densus 88 members shot dead five suspects in Bali they believed were planning a third Bali terror bombing, maintaining deadly force was justified because the men had resisted arrest. The police had tailed the suspects as they allegedly cased two Kuta bars that catered to foreigners and believed they were preparing to rob a money changer and a jewelry shop. Three of the men were convicted drug dealers who had spent time in the Bali Kerokokan Prison, where they had come into contact with Bali bombers Mukhlas, Amrozi and Imam Samudra. [20] They had ties to Abu Bakar Ba’asyir’s JAT organization. In an operation resembling the Temanggung raid three years earlier, dozens of riflemen surrounded the compound where the men were staying and opened fire when they refused to surrender. Densus 88 recovered a pistol, twelve bullets and no explosives or other evidence of plans for a terror operation. [21]

While Jemaah Islamiyah and its remnants have proven resilient, the police anti-terror program has been effective – killing over fifty militants and arresting another 600 following the October 12, 2002 terrorist bombings in Bali through 2011. [22] After the Jakarta Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton bombings in July 2009, just ten persons died in terrorist attacks in Indonesia during 2010, all policemen; terror attacks resulted in another three deaths in 2011, again all policemen, while the police killed and captured dozens of suspected terror group members. [23]

The government still needs to improve intelligence coordination, reinforce air and seaport security, and address the radicalization that takes place in prisons, mosques and boarding schools. According to International Crisis Group Indonesia Country Director Sidney Jones, “No one in the [BNPT prevention] section has any experience with radical movements, let alone with prevention strategies. They talk about the enormity of trying to mount a counter-radicalization effort with 800,000 mosques and 30,000 Islamic schools across the country. But if they did a basic mapping exercise, based on available knowledge culled from testimonies of arrested jihadis, of where radical recruitment has taken place, they would realize that a much more targeted effort is possible.” [24] Despite those drawbacks, there is no pressing need for greater military involvement in the anti-terrorism mission. The police can request military backup whenever needed, which seems an appropriate arrangement.

[1] International Crisis Group, “Indonesia: Jemaah Islamiyah’s Current Status” (Brussels: ICG, Update Briefing, May 3, 2007), pp. 3-4.

[2] International Crisis Group, “Recycling Militants in Indonesia: Darul Islam and the Australian Embassy Bombing” (Brussels: ICG, Asia Report No 92, February 22, 2005), p. 4.

[3] International Crisis Group, “Terrorism in Indonesia: Noordin’s Networks” (Brussels: ICG, Asia Report No 114, May 5, 2006), p. 5.

[4] Ibid, p. 4.

[5] Ken Conboy, The Second Front: Inside Asia’s Most Dangerous Terrorist Network, (Jakarta: Equinox, 2006), pp. 220-222.

[6] Ibid, p. 223.

[7] Marcus Mietzner, The Politics of Military Reform in Post-Suharto Indonesia: Elite Conflict, Nationalism, and Institutional Resistance (Washington, D.C.: East-West Center, 2006), pp. 40-41.

[8] Conboy, The Second Front, pp. 222-224. It did not harm his career, Gories Mere advanced to lieutenant general.

[9] Ibid, pp. 228-232.

[10] International Crisis Group, “Indonesia: Jemaah Islamiyah’s Current Status,” p. 14.

[11] International Crisis Group, “Terrorism in Indonesia: Noordin’s Networks,” pp. 11-13.

[12] Mietzner, The Politics of Military Reform, p. 57.

[13] Cited in “Indonesia Reactivates Military Intelligence Network to Combat Terrorism,” The Straits Times, October 25, 2005.

[14] International Crisis Group, “Indonesia: Jemaah Islamiyah’s Current Status,” p. 13.

[15] “Bali Bomb Burials Stoke Tensions,” BBC Asia, November 9, 2008.

[16] Stephen Fitzpatrick, “Shot by Camera but Noordin Top Slips the Net,” The Australian, August 10, 2009.

[17] Cited in Sidney Jones, “TNI and Counter-Terrorism: Not a Good Mix” (Brussels: International Crisis Group, Strategic Review, January 9, 2012).

[18] International Crisis Group, “Indonesia: Jihadi Surprise in Aceh” (Brussels: ICG, Asia Report No 189, April 20, 2010), p. 1.

[19] Mark McDonald, “Bin Laden Link to ‘Demolition Man’?” The International Herald Tribune, February 13, 2012.

[20] International Crisis Group, “How Indonesian Extremists Regroup,” pp. 15-16.

[21] “Indonesia’s Trigger-Happy Densus 88 Get their Men,” The Asia Sentinel, March 21, 2012.

[22] Jaleswari Pramodhawardani, “TNI and Terrorism Control in Indonesia,” The Jakarta Post, October 6, 2011.

[23] Jones, “TNI and Counter-Terrorism: Not a Good Mix.”

[24] Ibid.

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