Fresh recruitment of thousands of jihadists in Indonesia


While the administration of President-elect Joe Biden is going to accept illegal migrants into the United States with arms wide open, there is disturbing news about radical Islamic jihadists taking preparations for widening their notoriety mainly targeting western countries. Kuala Lumpur based journalist Amy Chew in her recent article in the South China Morning Post has elaborately described terrifying information about recruitment of thousands of jihadists in Indonesia by a little-known cleric named Ustad Arif (54), hailing from Klaten, Central Java, who also is the leader of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) – the Southeast Asia branch of Al Qaeda. We know, Jemaah Islamiah was behind the deadly jihadist attacks in Indonesia from 1998 to 2010 mainly targeting foreign tourists. Due to massive actions of the counterterrorism police of Indonesia, although JI was weakened, now the latest arrest of Ustad Arif evidently proves – jihadists are once again taking preparations of newer attacks, and most possibly, this time the number of Islamist jihadists and their targets would be increased to many folds.

A senior security source, on condition of anonymity, told This Week In Asia, “Ustad Arif was arrested about two months ago. He has links to Malaysia, but those links have not been profiled. They are sleeper cells.”

Amy Chew wrote:

Following the JI-masterminded 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, including 11 Hong Kong residents, JI had split into two factions, said Robi Sugara, a lecturer and counterterrorism analyst at Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic University in Jakarta. One faction believed in violent jihad and supported al-Qaeda and later, Islamic State, while another believed in what Sugara called “jihad proselytisation”.

JI suffered a near extinction in 2007 when an armed clash with police in Poso, Central Sulawesi, led to the arrest of more than 40 of its members, including top leaders, according to a 2017 report by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC). From 2007, it has also been known as “neo-JI”, IPAC said.

Sugara said it was mostly members of the jihad proselytisation faction of JI that were arrested recently as “they supplied funds to terrorists”.

Although counterterrorism experts and Indonesian law enforcement agencies were thinking – JI has already gone into extinction, the information obtained following the arrest of Ustad Arif evidently proves – this notorious jihadist outfit is regenerating and most definitely getting organized in a much bigger way, as the number of new recruits of JI stands as “thousands”.

Benny Mamoto, a retired police general who investigated the Bali bombings estimated that JI has recruited at least six thousand people into various ranks of this jihadist outfit. It may be mentioned here that, Jemaah Islamiah’s pattern of recruitment is through its own Islamic boarding schools. It also maintains coordination with other radical Islamic militancy groups and provides logistical support, weapons, and explosives.

According to Indonesian counterterrorism experts, JI has lots of funds and members. Only a small branch of this group’s charity organization in Tangerang in greater Jakarta is able to generate US$ 142,000 per year.

Indonesian law enforcement agencies have arrested more than 30 JI members during 2020, including Arif and JI’s expert bomb-maker Upik Lawanga.

The funding for JI comes from legitimate businesses in palm oil plantations and mines in Kalimantan, while it also receives a substantial amount of cash every year through donations including Islamic zakat. It is also involved in robbery.

Only from palm oil plantations, JI’s annual income is estimated to millions of dollars, while it also is involved in courier service business, running religious boarding schools, trade-in herbal medicines and operate fitness centers. Members of this jihadist group are also required to donate 5-10 percent of their income.

The name of the military wing of JI is Asykari. The main responsibility of the military wing is to make preparations for waging jihad mostly in foreign countries. This unit of JI has connections with a number of radical Islamic militancy groups in a number of Asian nations including India and the Philippines.

JI’s intelligence arm conducts paramilitary training at its training centers, which are called Sasana. Every JI member who passes Sasana’s training course will be sent to Syria to receive further training from al-Qaeda-linked groups like Jabhat Al-Nusra.

Although Jemaah Islamiah does not have any plans for terror attacks in the immediate short-term, but, when it resumes terrorist attacks, its key target would be the US and its allies due to involvement in the Middle East. JI’s targeting the US is because of President Donald Trump’s support for Israel and particularly for recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish State.

JI has also been making moves to have its presence within various political parties in Indonesia and the Philippines as part of its strategy to achieve an Islamic caliphate encompassing Indonesia and Mindanao island in the southern Philippines. Mindanao is home to several militant groups, including the notorious Abu Sayyaf group, which is known for beheading its kidnapped hostages. The nexus of terror groups with intolerant groups as well as political forces could ultimately give birth to another ‘Syria’ in Asia. JI certainly poses a substantial threat to those nations that it considers as “enemies of Islam”.


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