New reports of a rising threat by JI has resurfaced barely months after another key report about the regrouping of the Al Qaeda network. Despite several arrests of key leaders, these terrorist groups are down but not out, and certainly showing signs of “revival”.
According to reports by Tempo, Indonesian officials and former JI members, the Al-Qaeda linked extremist group blamed for the Bali bombings, have formed a new military wing (called the Sariyah or military company) in Indonesia with about 100 trained operatives. The wing has held training exercises to teach its operatives bomb making and firearm assembly skills.
A former JI leader, Nasir Abas, who is presently assisting police upon his release from jail, told The Straits Times that their strength is not to be underestimated. ‘There may be just 100 fighters but if they were to move together in a coordinated manner, they can create havoc,' he said.
The Tempo report also revealed Abu Dujana as the leader of the new wing, after he was forced to restructure JI following the arrest of three of his key commanders. The new wing also represents one of JI's five 'departments' that include missionary work, education, economic affairs and information. Before the arrest, the commanders control the areas named in Arabic as Ishobah I (military district of Surakarta), Ishobah II (military district of Semarang), Ishobah III (military district of Surabaya) and Ishobah IV (military district of Jakarta).
Dujana, known as the 'Teacher' and 'Pak Guru' to his men, was reportedly contemptuous of suspected militant Noordin Muhammad Top, currently Southeast Asia's most wanted man, as the latter was said to lack coordination and had hindered JI. Unlike most militants in the region, Abu Dujana is said to be fluent in Arabic and is known to have met Osama and trained with Hambali, also known as Riduan Isamuddin, a JI leader who is now detained by the United States.
Elsewhere, Indonesian authorities have reasons to believe that the new wing may likely venture beyond inflicting mass casualties and is also targeting individuals. According to Ansyad Mbai who heads the Anti-Terrorism Desk at the Security Ministry, the recent Yogjakarta arrest had yielded a large cache of weapons, ammunition and half a tonne of explosives.
‘This is a network, not only a cell. They have many weapons - sophisticated weapons, three M-16s ... The explosives they are hiding now are bigger than the explosives in Bali…What does this mean? Their capability is bigger than before,’ Mbai told Channel NewsAsia. ‘This group possessed three M-16s. This means they are pursuing their specific targets — individual targets. It never happened before,’ he added.
Another worrisome find was the fact that the weapons were not the type used by Indonesian security forces but by a neighbouring country — indicating a terrorist network operating on a regional level. Security experts believe the weapons most likely came from the restive Southern Philippines or Southern Thailand. Police also found charts mapping the structure of JI - which has been linked to Osma bin Laden's Al-Qaeda - bearing Abu Dujana's handwriting. (12 April 2007)
Indonesia's JI sets up new terror unit: report (AFP/The Straits Times, 9 April 2007)
JI 'sets up new military wing' (The Straits Times, 10 April 2007)
Chain of command (The Straits Times, 10 April 2007)
New JI arm discovered in Indonesia (Bangkok Post, 11 April 2007)
New regional terror group? (TODAY, 11 April 2007)