Jakarta – The Jemaah Islamiah (JI) may be rethinking its agenda following an ideological struggle in which the faction which is against the bombing of Western targets appears to have gained the upper hand. However, there is still much cause for worry: The renegade JI members who continue to favour such bombings have the means to do, having built an extensive network of bombers that stretches from Java to Mindanao.
The renegades include Malaysian bomb experts Noordin Mohamed Top and Azahari Husin, who may have formed a suicide brigade, terrorism expert Sidney Jones said at a briefing on terrorism in Southeast Asia to Asian and European newspaper editors in Jakarta recently.
The two Malaysians, who are believed to be involved in several major terrorist incidents in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings, are reported to be hiding in Central Java.
The existence of a network of renegade bombers means that "we're still going to see attacks in Indonesia, but probably less professional and even less well-executed than in the past", said Ms Jones, who is the Southeast Asia project director of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. Her review was based on interviews, depositions of the interrogations of arrested JI members and sources from radical organisations.
Since the Bali bombings, the renegade members have made use of their own personal network – instead of going through the JI official hierarchy – to carry out their terrorist acts.
"These networks fall into four main categories: family, school ties, joint military training and shared combat experience," Ms Jones said.
Renegades like Azahari and Noordin are trying to get to Mindanao in the southern Philippines but the tighter security net there has made it more difficult for them to enter the country. The bombers are also short of cash since they can no longer rely on official sources of funds from the Middle East and Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that the JI is affiliated to.
"They are now recruiting people to go to Mindanao for military training on a 'pay as you go' basis."
According to Ms Jones, the anti-bombing faction which has won the ideological struggle within the JI wants to move the militant group back to its original agenda of building an Islamic Indonesia state instead of pursuing a global, anti-Western jihad campaign.
The anti-bombing faction "is being led by a group that wants to sterilise JI by effectively purging not only the bombers but anyone who has been on a police-wanted list".
* The renegade bombers (The Sunday Times, Sept 18)