Medan, Indonesia – Within the early 2000s, the potential for terror assaults in Southeast Asia appeared dramatically completely different from at this time.
Indonesia was rocked by the Christmas Eve church bombings on December 24, 2000, that killed 18 folks. Simply six days later, Metro Manila within the Philippines skilled comparable bombings that killed 22 folks.
In 2002, a sequence of bombings ripped by way of a well-liked nightlife spot in Bali, Indonesia, killing greater than 200 folks and leaving a minimum of one other 200 wounded.
Within the following years, the JW Marriott Resort, the Philippine Inventory Change and the consulate, all in Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, have been attacked, as have been different places throughout Southeast Asia.
The group answerable for the assaults, and others, was Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), whose members aspired to determine a hardline Islamic state in Indonesia and throughout wider Southeast Asia.
Usually referred to by its initials, JI was alleged to have operatives in Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and the Philippines, and was stated to be linked to different teams, together with al-Qaeda and the Moro Islamic Liberation Entrance (MILF) in the Philippines’ Mindanao island.
Although JI was answerable for a protracted checklist of atrocities and lots of of casualties within the early 2000s – its final recorded assault was the bombing of a police compound in West Java province in 2011 – the group, and the concern of terror assaults, is essentially forgotten within the area now.
So, how did Indonesia’s and different governments in Southeast Asia successfully curtail a regional risk whereas the United States-led “war on terror” left total nations shattered and areas of the world in chaos following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US?
“The early 2000s actually felt harmful on the time,” Zachary Abuza, a professor on the Nationwide Warfare School in Washington, DC, advised Al Jazeera.
“However the Bali bombing actually shook Indonesia out of its complacency. The brand new terrorism legislation modified the general public notion of the perceived degree of hazard and the authorities had free rein to do their work with out political interference,” Abuza stated.
‘It broke JI’s again’
On the time of the Bali bombings in late 2002, Indonesia didn’t have particular and focused antiterrorism laws, though this was shortly drafted and signed into legislation in 2003 and utilized retroactively to a few of the perpetrators of the attack on the popular holiday island.
Three senior members of JI, Imam Samudra, Ali Ghufron and Amrozi, have been shortly arrested, prosecuted, and executed in 2008 for his or her roles in masterminding the bombings.
A fourth perpetrator, Ali Imron, was sentenced to life in jail.
In 2003, Hambali, a Malaysia-based member of JI, allegedly answerable for securing funding for the group, was arrested in Thailand after spending months hiding out within the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
Renditioned by the US, Hambali was tortured at CIA “black websites” earlier than being transferred to the US army’s infamous Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba the place he remains imprisoned to this day for his alleged function within the Bali bombings.
Indonesia and different governments within the area continued to shut the web between JI members and their leaders.
In 2007, Abu Dujana, the head of JI’s military operations, was arrested. In 2010, Abu Bakar Bashir, the “non secular head” of the organisation, was captured and sentenced to fifteen years in jail. He was released early in January 2021.
“When folks have been arrested, it broke JI’s again,” Abuza stated.
“However JI as an organisation nonetheless existed and the federal government gave it ample house to exist, permitting it to run its madrasas [Islamic educational institutions], charities and companies,” he stated.
The Indonesian authorities formally declared JI an unlawful organisation in 2008, however authorities took a extra measured strategy by persevering with to permit its members a level of autonomy supplied they didn’t have interaction in violence.
‘Jihad as a non secular battle’
In line with Farihin, a member of JI primarily based in Indonesia, the organisation stays lively, though it has now modified its philosophy to one in every of pacifism and focuses on works resembling spiritual instructing and different socially-minded causes.
“There isn’t any deal with violence now,” he advised Al Jazeera.
“Solely on jihad as a non secular battle to protect in opposition to our private sins as people,” he stated.
“All religions have this idea in some type.”
Whereas Farihin nonetheless describes himself as a member of JI, he stated the unique grouping has fractured and splintered many occasions over time, owing to folks having completely different views and opinions.
These variations of opinion are usually cited as one more reason for the success of the regional strategy to the so-called “struggle on terror” – a mixture of inner political disputes and exterior safety operations.
By 2007, Abuza recounted, JI was “riddled by factionalism” as remaining members of the organisation jostled for energy and clashed on how one can create a blueprint for his or her operations shifting ahead.
“Abu Dujana had completely different concepts for the organisation and felt that bombing foreigners was not the way in which to attain its goals,” Abuza stated.
“Sufficient folks in JI thought it was greatest to lie low after the Bali bombing and that the assault had not been productive,” he stated.
“Abu Dujana was not arguing that killing foreigners was morally mistaken, simply that it was not productive as, with every assault and subsequent arrests, the organisation was getting weaker.”
Counterterrorism work continues
Indonesia additionally got here a good distance with reference to creating an efficient counterterrorism framework that has considerably weakened networks of potential attackers throughout the area, stated Alif Satria, a researcher on the division of politics and social change on the Centre for Strategic and Worldwide Research in Indonesia.
“First is the creation of Densus 88 in 2003 by way of the assistance of different nations. This has ensured that Indonesia has a well-functioning counterterrorism unit with the required intelligence and operational expertise to dismantle networks,” Satria advised Al Jazeera.
Densus 88 or Counterterrorism Particular Detachment 88, was a unit fashioned in 2003 underneath the umbrella of the Nationwide Police and was funded, geared up, and educated partly by the US and Australia.
Satria added that one other milestone was the creation of Indonesia’s Nationwide Counterterrorism Company (BNPT) in 2010.
Deradicalisation programmes led by the police within the early 2000s have been additionally vital in making certain that these arrested didn’t re-engage with hardline teams as soon as they have been launched.
“In consequence, Indonesia has managed to maintain its recidivism charge at round 11 %,” he stated.
Nonetheless, the counterterrorism work performed by the Indonesian authorities remains to be in progress.
Who will emerge subsequent?
Open-source knowledge assortment reveals that between 2021 and 2023, extra JI members have been arrested than members of different teams resembling Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), an ISIL-affiliated group responsible for recent attacks in Indonesia and the broader area.
A number of the more moderen incidents embody the 2018 Surabaya bombings wherein three Christian church buildings have been attacked within the metropolis of Surabaya by a husband and spouse and their 4 youngsters, one in every of whom was simply 9 years outdated. Fifteen folks have been killed.
The identical group was additionally behind the Jolo Cathedral bombings in Sulu within the Philippines in 2019 that killed 20 folks.
“Between 2021 and 2023, there have been some 610 folks arrested, 42 % of whom have been JI and 39 % JAD and different pro-Islamic State teams,” Satria stated.
“For me, that goes to point out that, regardless of not conducting assaults, JI could be very a lot nonetheless lively, be it in conducting recruitment, fundraising or getting ready for its regeneration,” he stated.
Abuza agreed with that cautious tone, saying the shortage of clear management on a world scale for hardline teams had additionally contributed to a common sense of quintessence.
However that would shortly change.
“These organisations live organisations and reply to the exterior setting,” Abuza stated.
“Everyone seems to be ready to see what occurs within the Center East and who emerges as a pacesetter,” he stated.
“Somebody will,” he added.