Monday, January 24, 2011

Jemaah Islamiyah Briefer: Links with Foreign Terrorist Organizations

By Rommel C. Banlaoi

Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) has established strong linkages with various terrorist cells in Southeast particularly in Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.  JI also had close links with Al-Qaeda, which regarded Southeast Asia as one of the major areas of operations.

JI-Al-Qaeda Link.   JI is widely known for its strong linkage with Al-Qaeda.  While the regionalist claims that JI is a reincarnation of DI that originates in Indonesia, the globalist contends that JI is the creation of Al-Qaeda.  There is even a view that JI is an appendage of Al-Qaeda. As such, JI members began to think and act like Al-Qaeda and they shared Al-Qaeda’s vision of a global jihad.[1]   It is also argued that JI is an Al-Qaeda affiliate terrorist group in Southeast Asia, to wit:

Jemaah Islamiyah had become an Al-Qaeda affiliate, receiving financial and material support from the group. Several top Jemaah Islamiyah operatives even received instruction in Afghan training camps. Soon after its founding, Jemaah Islamiyah became an Al-Qaeda affiliate.[2]

  JI links with Al-Qaeda was forged following the meeting between Sungkar and bin Laden in 1993.  But the key link that strongly bound JI and Al-Qaeda was Riduan Ismuddin more known in the intelligence community as Hambali, an Afghan war veteran who   assisted Baasyir in various JI terrorist activities.   Hambali was the operation commander of JI while serving as the logistical coordinator of Al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations in Southeast Asia.   

Police investigators claimed that Hambali organized travel itineraries and accommodations for two of the 9/11 hijackers.  He was also a major suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.[3]  Investigators also revealed that Hambali organized most of the JI’s terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia. As the chief operative of terrorist network in Southeast Asia, Hambali planned a coalition of Islamic extremist groups with roots in at least five Southeast Asian countries to transform their separate local struggles into a systematic regional campaign for the establishment of a single Islamic state in the region.[4]  

JI and Al-Qaeda have overlapping agendas.  They even shared their members in Southeast Asia. As such, they have a very symbiotic relationship. The US-based Congressional Research Service (CRS) states that JI and Al-Qaeda have shared training camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Mindanao.[5]  A CRS study observes:

Though most of JI’s funding appears to have come from local sources, Al Qaeda has provided JI with financial support.  They shared personnel, such as when JI sent an operative with scientific expertise to Afghanistan to try to develop an anthrax program for Al Qaeda. The two networks have jointly planned operations — including the September 11 attacks — and reportedly have conducted attacks in Southeast Asia jointly.[6]

JI Cell in Malaysia.  It is argued that JI cell in Malaysia was the largest in Southeast Asia with an estimated 200 members during the 9/11 incidents.  Abu Hanifah and Faiz bin Abu Bakar Bafana were known leaders of Malaysian JI cell.  JI worked very closely with Kampulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM) founded in 12 October 1995 by Zainon Ismail, an Afghan War veteran.  KMM’s main conduit with JI was Abu Jibril, regarded as KMM’s spiritual leader.  In fact, KMM and JI membership overlapped.   JI cell in Malaysia was responsible for establishing JI cell in Australia.[7]

JI-MILF-ASG Links in the Philippines.   JI cell in the Philippines was considered to be the smallest in Southeast Asia numbering not more than 100 members during 9/11.  As of May 2009, not more than 30 JI members in the Philippines were identified by law enforcement agencies.  
JI has been accused of establishing links with Islamic groups in the Philippines known for some alleged terrorist acts:  the ASG and the MILF.   JI links with ASG will be discussed in our future blogs.
Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi was identified as JI’s liaison with the MILF.  Al-Ghozi went to MILF headquarters in Camp Abu Bakar in December 1996 to train MILF and JI operatives in bomb-making.[8]  Philippine Police authorities arrested Al-Ghozi on charges of illegal possession of explosives   just three hours prior to his scheduled flight to Bangkok on 15 January 2002. 
In July 2003, Al-Ghozi escaped from his prison cell in Manila.  But through intensified manhunt and joint military-police operations, he was killed in a shootout in Mindanao on 12 October 2003, a date coinciding with the first year anniversary of the 2002 Bali bombing.
MILF leader, Eid Kabalu, said that the MILF-JI link is a recycled allegation and a black propaganda lodged against their organization.  An MILF ideologue even underscored that the JI-MILF-ASG links are government ploys to justify the label of MILF as a terrorist organization.[9]

But the International Crisis Group (ICG) based in Brussels released a report describing this so-called link.  The ICG states, ‘While the MILF leadership continues to deny any ties, all evidence points to operational and training links. What is uncertain is whether top leaders are aware of the activity and are unwilling to admit it.’[10] The MILF even earmarked a training camp, called Camp Hodeiba, for JI.[11]  Contructed in 1994, JI reportedly used Camp Hodeiba to train MILF members in urban terrorism, particularly in bomb making.  Nassir Abbas, an Indonesian member of JI, also admitted that he went to MILF Camp Abu Bakar in order to set-up Mantiqi 3 in the Philippines and to train MILF fighters.

JI Cell in Singapore.   JI cell in Singapore was headed by Ibrahim bin Maidin who underwent Jihad training in Afghanistan in 1993.  He was assisted by Mas Salamat Kastari regarded as JI’s operational leader in Singapore.  JI cell in Singapore played a vital role in fund-raising of Al-Qaeda operatives in Southeast Asia. 

Members of JI cell in Singapore had either participated in the Afghan War or had received training in Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.[12]  Some of them were blood relatives while others had familial relations with JI members in Malaysia and Indonesia.[13]  It was in Singapore when JI caught worldwide attention through the uncovering in December 2001 of a terror plot to bomb several targets like the US Navy vessels docked at the Changi Naval Base, the Singapore Ministry of Defense office, the British and Australian High Commissions offices, American and Israeli Embassies, and critical infrastructures like subways and pipelines.



[This piece is taken from Rommel C. Banlaoi, Counter-Terrorism Measures in Southeast Asia:  How Effective Are They? (Manila: Yuchengco Center, 2009)].
[1] Rohan Gunaratna, “Ideology in Terrorism and Counter Terrorism:  Lessons from Combating Al-Qaeda and Al Jemaah Al Islamiyah in Southeast Asia” in Abdul Halim Bin Kader (compiler), Fighting Terrorism:  Preventing the Radicalization of Youth in a Secular and Globalized World (Singapore:  Singapore Malay Youth Library Association, 2007), p. 69.
[2] Abuza, “Jemaah Islamiyah Adopts the Hezbollah Model Assessing Hezbollah's Influence”, p. 15.
[3]“Militant Leader Met Terrorists in Selangor“, Strait Times (12 January 2002), p. 23.  For detailed discussions,  also see very good press summary at  “Jemaah Islamiaj (JI)” in  Virtual Information Center Press Summary:  Special Report, Impact and Implications of Bali Summit at <http://www.vicnfo.org/RegionsTop.nsf/81e4712fc4dc16ef8a25699f00062d91/e09ae7b7a63c20020a256c55001a0b8a?OpenDocument> [Accessed on 22 October 2002].
[4]Alan    Sipress     and  Ellen  Nakashima,     “Militant Alliance in Asia Is Said to Seek Regional Islamic State”,    Washington    Post    Foreign   Service,    (20  September  2002), p. 16.
[5] Mark Manyin,  Emma Chanlet-Avery, Richard Chronin, Larry Niksch and Bruce Vagn, Terrorism in Southeast Asia (Washington DC:  Congressional Research Service, 2004), p. 6.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Abuza, Militant Islam in Southeast Asia, p. 136.
[8] Ibid.,  p. 137.
[9] Salah Jubair, The Long Road to Peace:  Inside the GRP-MILF Peace Process (Cotabato City:  Institute of Bangsamoro Studies, 2007), p. 61.
[10] International Crisis Group “Southern Philippine Backgrounder:  Terrorism and the Peace Process:, ICG Asia Report, No. 8, (13 July 2004),  p. i.
[11] Ressa, Seeds of Terror, p. 7.
[12] Desker, “The Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) Phenomenon in Singapore”, p. 501.
[13] Ibid., p. 502.

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