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Jemaah Islamiyah Remains Dangerous, says European Group - 2003-08-26

A new report by a European think tank says the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist organization remains dangerous in Southeast Asia despite the recent arrest of one its alleged ringleaders. The report also reveals more about the structure of the al-Qaida linked group. The International Crisis Group says the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist organization has been hurt by the arrest of more than 200 suspected members - including the group's alleged regional chief, Hambali. But it can still survive. "It just seems more extensive and more embedded and more numerous than I ever would have believed at the outset - and very much still dangerous," is the assessment of Sidney Jones, in the group's Jakarta office. Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, reportedly wants to establish an Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

Riduan Isamuddin, who also uses the name Hambali, is believed to be a financial conduit for the al-Qaida terrorist network. He was arrested in Thailand earlier this month and is now in U.S. custody. His arrest came just days after a car bomb exploded at the J.W. Marriott hotel in the Indonesian capital. Police say the blast, which killed 12 people may have been a JI plot. Authorities also say JI was responsible for last year's bombing of two nightclubs on the island of Bali, which killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. In the report, Ms. Jones says that instead of having a conventional structure similar to local governments, JI actually resembles a military, suggesting a stronger determination to inflict harm. "I think it makes it more sophisticated," said Ms. Jones. "It also makes it scarier in a way, if you think that the entire aim of this operation was designed to wage war."

The report lists a number of JI members who fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980's, alongside fighters who now belong to al-Qaida. Some have been arrested in connection with the Bali bombing.

It was the war in Afghanistan that drew many members to JI. Ms. Jones said that while there are parallels with the U.S. mission now under way in Iraq, it would be difficult for militants to use Iraq to pursue their cause, or to create a training ground. "I think people would be instantly monitored if they tried to go from Indonesia to Iraq," she said, "and I think it'd be much more difficult to set up training facilities in the same way you can set up these camps on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in 1985-86."

Ms. Jones also says that despite its links to al-Qaida, JI has grown independent and sophisticated enough to carry out terrorist strikes on its own.