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Alive and Kicking - Al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah continued to pose a threat

Updated On: Apr 06, 2007

Worldwide, Al Qaeda is regrouping under a new generation of leaders.

This has caused much surprise and dismay within American intelligence agencies over possibilities of the group’s survivability despite huge resources devoted by theUS to destroy the organization. The organization is far from crippled.

Al-Qaeda training camps in Pakistan's remote mountains is the home base for the regrouped organization. An Egyptian paramilitary commander, Abu Ubaidah Al-Masri, for example is one of the new leaders in Pakistan orchestrating attacks and is thought to be in charge of militia operations in Kunar province, Afghanistan.

The problem is so worrying for the Americans that in February 2007, deputy CIA director Stephen Kappes and US Vice-President Dick Cheney made a trip toIslamabad to present General Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani President, with the newest US intelligence on Al-Qaeda. 'The jihadis returning from Iraq are far more capable than the mujahideen who fought the Soviets ever were,' said Mr Robert Richer, who was associate director of operations in 2004 and 2005 for the CIA. 'They have been fighting the best military in the world, with the best technology and tactics.'

Given that the core regrouping is taking place in South Asia, it is therefore apt that South Asian leaders have pledged to found a US$300 million (S$454 million) development fund for infrastructure and other projects. This would help in capacity-building in an effort to alleviate poverty, a root cause of terrorism. One-fifth of humanity and also many of the most impoverished in the world live in the eight countries of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation, or Saarc. The South Asian countries are also targeting financing, associated drug trafficking and illicit arms trade to stop the proliferation of terrorism in that region. The leaders condemned 'the targeted killing of civilians and terrorist violence in the region and agreed to implement all international conventions relating to combating terrorism'.

The other region plagued with terrorism is Southeast Asia. Earlier US intelligence indicated that terrorist organizations in this region plan to set up a pan-Islamic state in South-east Asia through violent jihad. Recently, a major victory has been scored when Indonesian police found charts detailing the structure of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a Southeast Asian extremist group linked to Al-Qaeda. JI has also been blamed for the deadly Bail bombings in 2002.  The latest raid yielded possible plots that the group is planning the assassinations of Central Java prosecutor M. Ismail, the rector of Christian Satya Wacana University in Salatiga, Kris Herawan Timotius, and the bombing of its campus.

'The photocopied charts are only given to certain members of the organisation,' anti-terrorist police chief, Brigadier General Surya Dharma said. 'We are sure the board exists, but we do not know who sits on it.' JI also had a 'military wing' led by Dujana, which is tasked with collecting explosives and weapons for attacks, Brig-Gen Dharma said. 'It is clear even to laymen that this is an organised operation,' he said in Yogyakarta on Indonesia's main island of Java. In fact, the charts also indicate that the JI organization is now run by a board of leaders. The charts are also useful for convincing Indonesians who remain skeptical about the existence of a terrorist organization amongst their midst despite the series of bombings including Bali. "So this shows Jamaah Islamiyah really exists in Indonesia, it's not the police making it up," Surya Dharma said. Far from being imaginary, Indonesia JI militants have been training on the slopes of a volcano on the island of Java on the 1,027m Mount Sumbing. The participants carried M-16 rifles and practiced assembling the guns and dismantling them.

For some like freelance writer for Jakarta Post Lim Mei Ming, the issue that Indonesia and Southeast Asia has to confront is not a matter when terrorism will strike but that the real test of coping with terrorism goes beyond preventive actions to also include the mental preparedness of what it would be like when it happens. She urges Indonesia’s central government to “be responsible for nurturing the people's mental capacity to build this country.” Psychological warfare with hidden enemies that are in the minority determined to incite unrest may be something that Southeast Asian states are less prepared for.

Sources:

South Asia to step up anti-terror fight (Straits Times, 5 April 2007)

Indonesia raids uncover charts on JI's structure (Straits Times, 5 April 2007)

Indonesian police find JI charts, command structure (Antara, 4 April 2007)

Indonesian police find JI charts, command structure (Channelnewsasia, 4 April 2007)

Seven terror suspects flown to Jakarta from Yogyakarta (Antara, 4 April 2007)

Don't fall into the terror trap (Jakarta Post, 3 April 2007)

Police point to JI link in arrests (Jakarta Post, 3 April 2007)

Al-Qaeda rebuilds under new leaders (Straits Times, 3 April 2007)

JI militants held armed exercises at volcano on Java, says report (AFP/Straits Times, 3 April 2007)

Al-Qaeda-linked terror group trained in Indonesia: report (AFP/Straits Times, 2 Apr 2007)