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Security Analysts say Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia Remains Dangerous

  • Heda Bayron

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says terrorists are to blame for Friday's twin hotel bombings in the capital, Jakarta. The attacks appear to be a setback to Indonesia's relatively successful counter terrorism campaign. But security analysts say the regional terrorist network, Jemaah Islamiyah, which has a history of bombings in Indonesia, remains dangerous despite the arrests of some of its top operatives.

Friday's attack at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in the Indonesian capital are the first major bombings in Indonesia since the 2005 bombings in the resort island of Bali - blamed on the regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah.

Although no group has claimed responsibility for Friday's attack in Jakarta, speculation has focused on J.I.

The group has spread violence in Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, for most of the decade. But it was the 2002 bombings in Bali, which killed more than 200 people, that propelled J.I. onto the international stage.

Attacking Western targets has been a J.I. trademark: the JW Marriott hotel in 2003 and the Australian Embassy in 2004, although its attacks have killed more Indonesians than foreigners. But security authorities also suspect it of carrying out the Christmas Eve church bombings in Jakarta in 2000, and other bomb plots in the Philippines and Singapore.

Indonesian and regional security forces have had some success in stamping out J.I., arresting some top operatives. Last year, Indonesia executed the 2002 Bali bombers.

But Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, says the threat remains.

"J.I. continues to provide leadership to other terrorist groups in this region and JI remains a very credible threat," said Gunaratna.

J.I. wants to form a Southeast Asian Islamic state to include Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, the southern parts of Thailand and the Philippines. It emerged from the Darul Islam movement for an Islamic state in Indonesia in 1950s, whose adherents included J.I. spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir.

In recent years, security authorities say J.I. militants have sought refuge in the southern Philippines and trained Muslim militants there in bomb making.

Although J.I. is the most notorious jihadist group in Indonesia, there are others in the country, such as the Laskar Jihad. That group has been blamed for sectarian violence in Sulawesi and the Moluccas.

Greg Barton, a professor at Monash University in Australia and author of a book on J.I., says the latest attacks may also be the work of a splinter group.

"It's very likely that the people behind it come out of that broader grouping that J.I. is associating with, they may be people who were previously active in J.I. or possibly even served jail sentences because of their association with J.I.," he said.

The latest bombings present a new challenge for Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a former military general, who had campaigned against terrorism and extremism in the largely moderate nation.

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