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The Jemaah Islamiya, Al-Qaeda Connection

The Asia-Pacific region, and Southeast Asia in particular, is "an attractive theater of support and logistics" for al-Qaida, and a theater of operations for the regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiya (JI), according to the 2003 Patterns of Global Terrorism Report released by the Department of State April 29. The report cites the case of top JI leader and Southeast Asia al-Qaida representative Nurjaman Riduan bin Isomuddin, also known as "Hambali," as an example of the transnational nature of terrorism in the region.

With the arrest of two men, Ali Ghufron (a.k.a. Mukhlas) and Imam Samudra, in connection with the Bali bombings, the link between Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiya became visible for the first time. Intelligence agencies in the area had long suspected a connection between the two terrorist groups, however until then it had never been verified. In Mukhlas' testimony he admits to meeting Bin Laden in Afghanistan during the late 1980's, and explains that himself and other leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah worked diligently to strengthen and nurture their ties to Al-Qaeda. He also states in his testimony that he believes that the funding for the Bali bombings was in actuality money from Al-Qaeda, funnelled through Riduan Isamuddin (a.k.a. Hambali,) who was at that time JI's operations chief, as well as the purported chief Al-Qaeda representative in Southeast Asia. The confession of Mukhlas and Samudra make a strong case that the source of JI's growth during the past few years is directly related to an influx of funding from AL-Qaeda.

Another intriguing connection between the two groups is the presence of veteran Al-Qaeda operative and Yemeni national named Syafullah in Indonesia a few days before the nightclub bombing. Syafullah is believed to have supervised the final preparations of the chemical mixture used in the car bomb outside the nightclub and then departing Indonesia shortly before the bomb was detonated. Regional intelligence sources were under the impression that JI did not possess the technical knowledge to achieve such a devastating explosion and thus concluded that Syafullah was likely present in Indonesia to provide that technical expertise.

Despite the conjectures made for the link between Al-Qaeda and JI, in relation to the Bali bombings, most experts are divided on the connection between the two terrorist groups. Some officials within the U.S. government as well as some terrorist experts go as far as to suspect that Jemaah Islamiya is in actuality a subunit of Al-Qaeda with the intent of waging Jihad against U.S. interests in Indonesia and surrounding areas. Other experts wholeheartedly disagree and cite the differences between Jemaah Islamiyah's regional goals and Al-Qaeda's global aspirations.Abu Bakar Bashir the suspected leader of JI claims that Al-Qaeda has no ties to Jemaah Islamiya, however he has expressed support for Osama bin Laden.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:40:55 ZULU