Singapore- Following the crackdown against the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) in several countries, the Al-Qaeda-linked group has switched to a new strategy: Instead of getting its own members to carry out terrorist attacks,JI is using members from other militant groups inSoutheast Asiato do itsdirty work.
For example, the bombing of the Australian Embassy inJakartalast Septemberwas not carried out by JI members, but was directed by the group, saidSingapore's Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng. Last month's Valentine's Day attacks in three cities across thePhilippineswere also carried out by another terrorist group onJI's behalf.
Mr Wong said JI and other militant groups had shown a "high level of coordination" and might be using training camps in southernPhilippinesto build networks and share their deadly expertise.
"What may be occurring in these camps is that the previous segregation of Jemaah Islamiah and other groups, including Filipino trainees, is no longer observed," Mr Wong said at theopening of the Global Security Asia exhibition and conference on March 29.
"This will lead to greater collaborative networking among members of different groups and a dissemination of terror methods characteristic of Jemaah Islamiah operatives who had been trained by the Al-Qaeda."
Given these developments, there is an urgent need to "dismantle the training sites inMindanao, which continue to train these jihadists fraternal groups in the region", said Mr Wong.
Security experts have said that the training sites are located in the jungle-clad mountains bordering several provinces in the centralMindanaoarea, a stronghold of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Officials of the MILF, which is negotiating a peace deal withManila, have denied harbouring such militants.
With the unrest in southernThailandshowing no signs of abating, Mr Wong is also concerned that JI will try to reach out to separatists movements there and get them to carry out attacks on its behalf.
"If this happens, it will have serious ramifications for the entire region," he told the conference.
InManila, a Philippine Armed Forces spokesman denied Mr Wong’s claims thatMindanaocontinued to be a playground for JI.
Lt-Col Buenaventura Pascual said on March 30 that JI operatives had been on the run and had not been able to enjoy the amenities of an established camp as a result of continued military offensives.
While he was confident that intensified military operations had disrupted whatever training could be ongoing, he said that efforts would be undertaken to verify Mr Wong’s claim.
“We are exerting efforts to run after these JI operatives [but] they are not encamped but are on the run,” Lt-Col Pascual added.
* JI linking to other militant groups (The Straits Times, March 30)
* JI regrouping in Mindanao - Singapore official (The Manila Times, March 30)
* No regular JI camp here, AFP (The Manila Times, March 31)