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Jemaah Islamiya (JI)

For decades, the Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah has expounded its idea of amalgamating Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern Philippines into a regional Islamic state. Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia also has the same ambition. Jemaah Islamiyah (Islamic Congregation or JI) is an al Qaeda-linked terrorist organization whose main objective is to establish a pan-Islamic republic, incorporating Malaysia, Indonesia, southern Thailand, and the southern Philippines. JI has its roots in the Darul Islam movement, a radical Islamist/anti-colonialist movement founded in Indonesia in the 1940s. JI was founded in Malaysia in 1993, by Abu Bakar Bashir and Abdullah Sungkar. After the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998, both men returned to Indonesia, where Abdullah Sungkar established contact with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

In October 2002, the United States Government designated the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) a Foreign Terrorist Organization. JI is an extremist group linked to al-Qaida and other regional terrorist groups and has cells operating throughout Southeast Asia. Extremist groups in the region have demonstrated their capability to carry out transnational attacks in locations where Westerners congregate. Terrorist groups do not distinguish between official and civilian targets.

Jemaah Islamiya is a Southeast Asian terrorist network with links to al-Qaida. The network plotted in secrecy through the late 1990s, following the stated goal of creating an idealized Islamic state comprising Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the southern Philippines, and southern Thailand.

The name Jemaah Islamiyah dates to the late 1970s, but experts aren't certain if the name referred to a formal organization or an informal gathering of like-minded Muslim radicals-or a government label for Islamist malcontents. The group has its roots in Darul Islam, a violent radical movement that advocated the establishment of Islamic law in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country and also home to Christians, Hindus, and adherents of other faiths. Darul Islam sprang up as the country emerged from Dutch colonial rule in the late 1940s, and it continued to resist the postcolonial Indonesian republic, which it saw as too secular.

Jemaah Islamiyah is committed to Islamic "jihad," which is defined as doing your best to uphold God's law, propagating and establishing it, and fighting the infidels who fight against Islam and the Muslims. They believe that the permission to engage in violence is given under Islamic law when war is being wrongfully waged against Muslims by their enemies. What can be classified as a limited defensive war against Muslim enemies can be extended, however, under the belief that Muslims are commanded to take up the sword so that "only God is worshipped and no others will be ascribed divinity to, except Him." The believe this mandate must be obeyed by attacking infidels wherever they can be found in homogeneous groups, i.e., wherever Americans and their allies congregate separate from Muslims. Further, they believe that a single devastating attack on such a target is preferable to multiple attacks with minimal outcome. The most critical aspect of their thinking is the concept of perpetual war. They hold that non-Muslims will never allow Muslims to live in peace. Thus, armed jihad is the only acceptable posture toward non-Muslims. The majority of Muslim scholars maintain that only defensive wars are justified, i.e., when Muslims are subjected to unprovoked attacks.


This militant islamic group active in Southeast Asia seeks to etablish an Islamic fundamentalist state in the region. In the late 1990s, the more militant sections of JI, inspired by bin Ladens example, began undertaking a range of terrorist attacks, culminating in the October 2002 Bali bombing which claimed 202 lives. The massive police crackdown after that bombing decimated JI, destroying much of its organisational structure and leaving it with an estimated 200 members circa 2007. Since that time, it has been quietly consolidating under the leadership of Para Widjajanto and Abu Rusdan.

JIs violent operations began during the communal conflicts in Maluku and Poso. It shifted its attention to targeting US and Western interests in Indonesia and the wider Southeast Asian region following 9/11 and the start of the US-led war on terror. J.I. is allegeed to have attacked or plotted against U.S. and Wesern targets in Inodnesia, Singapore and the Philippines. Several J.I. members have been jailed for the planning of the October 12, 2002, bombing that killed 202 people in Bali. J.I. is also suspected in the August 5, 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12.

The group-or individuals affiliated with it-is thought to be tied to several terrorist plots. Among them:

The August 2003 car bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people. The October 2002 bombing of a nightclub on the predominantly Hindu island of Bali that killed 202 people, most of them foreign tourists from Australia and elsewhere. Amrozi bin Nurhasyim, a 41-year-old mechanic from east Java, was convicted on August 8 for buying the vehicle used in the main explosion and buying and transporting most of the chemicals used for the explosives. He was the first of 33 suspects arrested for the bombings to be convicted.

The JI was responsible for the Bali bombings on 12 October 2002, which killed nearly 200 and wounded 300 others. The Bali plot was apparently the final outcome of meetings in early 2002 in Thailand, where attacks against Singapore and soft targets such as tourist spots in the region were considered.

In December 2001, Singapore authorities uncovered a JI plot to attack the US and Israeli Embassies and British and Australian diplomatic buildings in Singapore.

A December 2000 wave of church bombings in Indonesia that killed 18. Asian and U.S. officials say Hambali had a hand in these attacks, and Indonesian officials arrested J.I. leader Bashir for questioning in connection with this anti-Christian campaign. Recent investigations linked the JI to December 2000 bombings where dozens of bombs were detonated in Indonesia and the Philippines.

A December 2000 series of bombings in Manila that killed 22. The State Department says Hambali helped plan these attacks. Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, a Bashir follower, reportedly confessed to a role in the bombings. In April 2002, he was convicted in the Philippines on unrelated charges of possessing explosives.

A 1995 plot to bomb 11 U.S. commercial airliners in Asia that, the State Department says, Hambali helped plan.

Jemaah Islamiyah has also been linked to aborted plans to attack U.S., British, and Australian embassies in Singapore.

On 08 November 2008 Indonesia confirmed it had executed the three Islamic militants convicted of planning and carrying out the 2002 terrorist bombings on the resort island of Bali just after midnight. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more. Amrozi Nurhasyim, Ali Ghufron, and Imam Samudra's death sentence was carried out just after midnight at an island prison off the coast of Java.

The three Islamic militants were all members of the al Qaida-linked regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah. They were convicted five years ago and sentenced to death for planning and carrying out the bombings on Bali that claimed the lives of 202 people, including 88 Australian tourists in 2002.

Police stepped up security across this sprawling archipelago fearing the executions could spark fresh terrorist attacks. Supporters of the bombers, who are a very small but vocal minority, have vowed to carry out revenge attacks.

Terrorism expert and senior advisor for the International Crisis Group, Sidney Jones, does not think the executions will cause any major terrorist attack and credits the severe weakening of JI to the work of the police, who have jailed over 300 militants over the past few years. "I don't think that the execution changes anything," said Jones. "I don't think it closes a chapter, I don't think it opens a new one. I think the bombings that have taken place in the past, at least the last three, have all been the work of Noordin Mohammad Top, who is still at large."

"So the executions won't make any difference. And to the extent that his group is weaker now than it was before has everything to do with the good work of the police and very little to do with activities related to the Bali bombers," she added.

By 2013 JIs leaders such as Hambali, Abu Dujana, Azahari Husin, Noordin Top and Dulmatin had either been captured or killed. In recent years, JI has moved towards a greater focus on dakwah and education. In many areas its leaders have set up their own dakwah organizations, offering speakers for Friday prayers or broadcasting sermons over the radio Some fifty Islamic boarding schools, or pesantrens, also remain loosely affiliated to JI and are still the preferred places for JI members to send their own children. They are also places where fugitive mujahidin can generally be assured of refuge JIs public face and one of its most influential thinkers is Abu Rusdan and it is an indication of how this largely clandestine organization has evolved that it even has a public face.

JIs leaders say they remain as committed to jihad as ever, but that there is no point in martyrdom operations against a much stronger enemy. Mujahidin, they say, need to build up their strength first through training and education and generate community support for jihad through religious outreach (dakwah). JIs withdrawal from active jihad has created a pool of younger militants, frustrated by this passivity and eager for action. They are thus available for recruitment by other groups, and some found their way to Aceh.

The outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2012 proved fortuitous for JI, which had been much criticised by jihadists for withdrawing from active operations. JIs leadership declared that it was permissible for its members to go to Syria to wage jihad and from 2013, the organisations humanitarian wing, HASI, sent relief missions to the region. With the split of ISIS from al-Nusra and its rejection of al-Qaeda, JI became a strong critic of ISIS and increased its efforts to support the pro-al-Qaeda forces. JI-associated media such as its magazine al-Najah, the publishing house Jazera, and websites and are leading sources of criticism of ISIS and praise for al-Nusra and al-Qaeda.

Location/Area of Operation

Jemaah Islamiya operates across Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and possibly in the Philippines and Thailand. Due to weak central authority and lax or corrupt law enforcement and open borders allows J.I. to operate easily throughout the region.

Following the regional crackdown against JI, it is unclear how the network has responded. The JI is believed to have cells spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and southern Thailand and may have some presence in neighboring countries.

The Singapore Jemaah Islamiyah is part of a much larger regional terrorist network spanning Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Singapore Jemaah Islamiyah members have identified Abu Bakar Baasyir and Abu Jibril as among those responsible for the establishment and operation of the Singapore Jemaah Islamiyah. Abu Jibril has been implicated in crimes committed by the Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia, while Abu Bakar Baasyir and another Indonesian Mujahidin Council leader, Hambali, are said to be behind the movement to establish an Islamic state comprising Indonesia, Malaysia and southern Philippines.

Six of the 13 Jemaah Islamiyah members being held in Singapore had links with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, while the two who were arrested and then released had visited Moro Islamic Liberation Front camps in the past.

Jemaah Islamiyah may also have Thai connections. In January this year, a Singaporean Jemaah Islamiyah fugitive, Mas Selamat Kastari, and four others were believed to have fled to Thailand. Kastari was suspected to be planning to hijack an aircraft from Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand, and crash it into Changi Airport.


The US State Department reported that the group's strength peaked in the late 1980s at about 500 hundred plus limited overseas support structure. Exact numbers are currently unknown, and Southeast Asian authorities continue to uncover and arrest additional JI elements. Singaporean officials have estimated total JI members to be approximately 5,000. The number of actual operationally oriented JI members probably is several hundred.

JI has been the largest and best-organized jihadist movement in Southeast Asia over the twenty years since its foundation. It was founded in Malaysia in January 1993 by two exiled Indonesian Islamic leaders, Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Baasyir, both of whom had defected from Darul Islam late in 1992. Although it had numerous Malaysian and Singaporean members, its primary basis was always in Indonesia. At its height in the early 2000s, it had more than 2000 members and a branch structure that spanned Indonesia, as well as Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Australia.

External Aid

Based on information from ongoing investigations, in addition to raising its own funds, the JI receives money and logistic assistance from Middle Eastern and South Asian contacts, NGOs, and other groups, including al-Qaida.

Has received considerable support, including safehaven, training, logistic assistance, and financial aid from Iraq, Libya, and Syria (until 1987), in addition to close support for selected operations. Abu Nidal was residing in Baghdad at his death in 2002.

Key Personalities

Abu Bakar Bashir, an Indonesian of Yemeni descent, is thought to be the group's spiritual leader-and, some speculate, an operational leader as well. Bashir joined Darul Islam in the 1970s and was imprisoned in Indonesia for Islamist activism. In 1985, after a court ordered him back to prison, Bashir fled to Malaysia. There, he recruited volunteers to fight in the anti-Soviet Muslim brigades in Afghanistan and sought funding from Saudi Arabia while maintaining connections with former colleagues in Indonesia.

After the Indonesian dictator Suharto stepped down in 1998, Bashir returned home to run a pesantren-a Muslim seminary- in Solo, on the Muslim-majority island of Java. He also took up leadership of the Indonesian Mujahedeen Council, an Islamist umbrella group. Bashir has denied involvement in terrorism. Following the October 2002 Bali bombing, Indonesian officials demanded that Bashir submit to questioning about earlier attacks. He is currently on trial in Indonesia for treason for his alleged links to terrorism.

U.S. and Asian intelligence officials say that Hambali played a key leadership role in the organization. He was J.I.'s operational chief, they say, and was closely involved in several terrorist plots. U.S. officials announced August 14 that he was arrested by Thai authorities in Ayutthaya, about 60 miles north of Bangkok, and handed over to the Central Intelligence Agency. The U.S. State Department says Hambali is the head of Jemaah Islamiyah's regional shura, its policymaking body, and is suspected of being al Qaeda's operations director for East Asia.

The State Department in January 2003 froze Hambali's assets and the assets of another suspected terrorist, Mohamad Iqbal Abdurraham, a.k.a. Abu Jibril. The department said that, until his arrest in Malaysia in June 2001, Abu Jibril was "Jemaah Islamiyah's primary recruiter and second-in-command."

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