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Report: Indonesia's Militants Can Be Contained but Not Eliminated

  • Tim Johnston

A new report on Islamic militant networks in Indonesia says the problem is unlikely ever to be fully conquered and warns that a number of would-be suicide bombers are still at large. However, the report says the groups can be contained, and that militants are unlikely to pose a long-term threat to the stability of Indonesia or the wider region.

The report, compiled by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, says the problem of violent Islamic militancy in Indonesia is in some ways broader than originally thought.

International attention has been focused on Jemaah Islamiyah, the group behind a number of attacks, including the October 2002 Bali bombing that killed than two hundred people, and attacks in Jakarta on an American-run hotel and the Australian embassy.

But the report says Jemaah Islamiyah is just one of a number of militant groups capable of launching such attacks. Most are splinters of a larger movement that unsuccessfully challenged the Indonesian government 50 years ago. The report says these groups are exploiting their common ancestry to cooperate in providing logistical support for attacks and hiding militants on the run.

It says the militants will be impossible to completely eradicate, but despite this, the International Crisis Group says there are grounds for hope that they will weaken.

Sidney Jones is one of the report's authors. She says the militants are recruiting in a diminishing pool.

"Even in the strongholds of places that have recruited and produced bombers and violent jihadists in the past, there are actually not very many people interested in joining these networks, there is more resistance than there is interest," she said.

Ms. Jones says the networks are unlikely to get enough supporters to pose a significant threat to the stability of Indonesia or the rest of Southeast Asia.

In the wake of attacks over the past two and a half years, dozens of militants have been rounded up and many have been given long prison sentences. However, the relatively small number still at large remain a danger. The report says they recruited seven suicide bombers: three have been arrested, one blew himself up outside the Australian embassy, but three have not yet been captured.

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