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‘Headless’ Jemaah Islamiah poses a bigger danger for Southeast Asia

Updated On: Jul 08, 2005

Singapore – The capture of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leaders and members in recent years has certainly dented the terror network’s designs to create a regional Islamic state spanning IndonesiaSingaporeMalaysia and the southern Philippines. However, there is now a new concern: That a splintered JI may be even more dangerous because of the absence of a chain command. 

     According to International Crisis Group analyst Sidney Jones, the lack of a central leadership has made it easier for militant groups to attract JI-trained men to join them in fanning communal tensions in places such as Poso and Ambon in Indonesia
    New friendships are formed and links are maintained until the next attack, Ms Jones told a seminar organised by the Institute of South-east Asian Studies (ISEAS) on July 5.  
    For example, the group Mujahidin Kayamanya had JI-trained militants involved in sectarian violence that was sparked in Poso on Sulawesi island, Ms Jones said. 
    Members of this group also took part in the violence in the Malukus, where five police officers from an elite unit were killed by gunmen in May. 
    The Indonesian authorities suspect that militant groups are behind the unrest involving Christians and Muslims in Poso and Ambon that has left scores killed or injured.
    It is the rise of such groups and their associations that the authorities should be worried about, not just the JI itself, said Ms Jones.  While she believes that the JI is likely to stay intact even without a central leadership, there will be a weakening of links with Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror network.
    In the words of another security analyst, the terror threat has "morphed well beyond Al-Qaeda".

* JI militants 'joining other terror groups' (The Straits Times, July 6)