Accessibility links

Breaking News

Jemaah Islamiyah Uses Videos to Gather Support

Fears about Islamic extremism in Southeast Asia are on the rise, especially following the terrorist bomb attack on the Indonesian island of Bali, believed by some to have been the work of the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah. It appears that extremists are using videos - sold at local markets - to win support.

The market outside the Istiqlal mosque is packed as worshippers leave Friday prayers. Much of what is for sale is ordinary: clothes, perfume, toys. There are also video compact discs - VCDs - for sale.

Most of the VCDs are the usual fare, pirated copies of movies, music videos and karaoke music. Others are educational, such as videos of the Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia, or messages from moderate preachers promoting religious tolerance.

Some videos aim to recruit members or solicit funding for militant Islamic groups.

One video is titled The Bloody Maluku Conflict. It shows refugee camps and young women making Molotov cocktails. It also shows fighting between Muslim and Christian mobs, which has flared in Indonesia's Maluku province sporadically since late 1999. There is gory footage of wounded being treated in clinics, and pictures of mass graves allegedly containing the bodies of dead Muslims.

Human rights group say at least 3,000 people have died in the Maluku fighting.

Communal fighting has also erupted in Central Sulawesi, primarily in the town of Poso.

Sidney Jones is an analyst with the International Crisis Group office in Jakarta. She says the images are meant to anger Muslim viewers. "They would go to a house and show them one of these tapes and people would naturally get very angry at the brutality of what they see," she said. "People getting killed and it's one image after another that's drilled into the heads of the viewers."

One VCD has something else, parts of a speech by Abu Jibril, an alleged extremist leader now in detention in Malaysia. He is suspected of being a financial conduit for the al-Qaida terrorist network in Southeast Asia.

In the VCD, bodyguards with machine guns flank Mr. Jibril. He holds a copy of the Islamic holy book, the Koran, in one hand, and a pistol in the other.

Mr. Jibril says holy war cannot be enforced without the Koran in the left hand, and iron in the right. He says we cannot hold just the Koran without the iron.

ICG's Ms. Jones says the VCD is used to persuade young men to join militant groups. "And after the tape is over, they have a discussion about jihad, about holy war, about what you need to do to resist this kind of oppression of Muslims," said Ms. Jones. "And often that would lead to an invitation to take part in some kind of quasi-military training and after a month or two months, it led to people going out to Maluku or Poso."

In a report released by the International Crisis Group on Wednesday, Ms. Jones concludes that the Maluku and Poso conflicts helped galvanize Indonesians to join radical groups, such as Jemaah Islamiyah.

The United States charges that JI is linked to the al-Qaida terrorist network. The group seeks to set up an Islamic state across Southeast Asia.

The governments of Singapore and Malaysia say they have thwarted at least two JI plots in the past year to blow up Western targets in the region.

Suspicion has fallen on the group for the October 12 bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Despite arresting a handful of suspects linked to JI, police have not officially said the group was involved.

Some of the videos for sale, however, have intriguing links to JI and al-Qaida.

This VCD made in 2000, titled Live Purely or Die As a Martyr features, among other things, the funeral of a Muslim leader killed in the Maluku conflict. His name Abu Dzar.

Abu Dzar, Ms. Jones says, was the father-in-law of Omar al Faruq, a Kuwaiti suspected of working for al-Qaida. Mr. al Faruq was arrested in Indonesia and turned over to U.S. authorities. He is suspected of planning attacks against Western embassies in Southeast Asia to coincide with the anniversary of September 11 attacks.

Whether Abu Dzar had links to JI is not clear.

The credits on the video say it is produced by KOMPAK - a Muslim group once led by Agus Dwikarna. Dwikarna is now serving a 17-year prison sentence in the Philippines for possessing illegal explosives. The Philippines government says he is a JI leader.

What is not known is how many of these videos have been produced or how many people they inspired to support radical groups. The video, however, ends by giving details on how to make donations to KOMPAK through an international bank in the Indonesian city of Bandung.