Thu, 24 Jul 2003

Terror threats imminent in Indonesia

Tiarma Siboro, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Despite the arrest of hundreds of members of regional terrorist group Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), the real danger of further terrorist attacks in Indonesia remains because some of its well-trained senior leaders are still at large, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said on Wednesday.

Sydney Jones, the ICG's Indonesia Project Director, suggested that security authorities collect more information on the identities of JI members recruited in its Philippines camps as well as to examine its international network in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, Bosnia and Kashmir.

Speaking in a two-day international seminar on militant Islamic movements in Southeast Asia, Jones also said the access to weapons and explosives, and involvement of top-flight strategists with a "jihadist" vision "remain a force to be reckoned with".

"To better understand the nature of that threat, it would also be useful to have more information on the nature of JI's alliances with other organizations, particularly with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and Abu Sayyaf (in the Philippines) as well as the operations financing," she said.

Jones was presenting a paper before participants of a seminar jointly held by the Jakarta-based Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University and Leiden University's Indonesia-Netherlands Islamic Studies program (INIS).

Jones believes that most of JI's top leaders once underwent training in the Islamic military academy run by JI at Camp Abu Bakar in the Philippines' Mindanao and some of them even got training in a camp associated with international terrorist leader Osama bin Laden -- Camp Khaldan on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border -- including Indonesia's suspected JI leaders Mukhlas and Hambali. The two allegedly masterminded last year's Bali bombings which killed 202 people, mostly foreigners.

Hambali remains at large, while Mukhlas is now standing trial in Bali.

The country's security authorities, along with their counterparts in Southeast Asia, have intensified cooperation in cracking down on terrorist cells as they believe "acts of terror are likely to continue in the future, targeting countries, including Indonesia".

Last week, the government called for heightened security at all state buildings and public facilities for fear that they could be the next targets of terrorist attacks. The move was made after a bomb blast in the House of Representatives compound last Monday which coincided with the escape of suspected JI leader Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi from Cramp Crame maximum security prison in the Philippines.

The two events took place only days after the police announced the arrest of nine JI members led by a man identified as Mustofa and seized more than 1,000 detonators and explosives, assault rifles and ammunition.

The government also believes that the ongoing trial of suspected JI members charged with masterminding a series of blasts in Jakarta, Bali and other places between 2000 and 2002, including alleged JI leader Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, may affect security in the country.

"The number of people detained does not necessarily indicate the extent of JI membership. Data shows that as of July, 2003, about 90 people were detained in Malaysia on suspicion of links to JI; about 30 in Singapore; about 80 in Indonesia; and a handful in other places.

"JI made a point of training its members in bomb-making and sharp-shooting, and it had, and likely still has, a fairly sophisticated weapons procurement program, with many of the arms being smuggled into Indonesia from the southern Philippines," Jones said.