Indonesian Terrorism in a Global Context
Indonesian Terrorism in a Global Context
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Indonesia's Police: The Problem of Deadly Force
Speech / Asia 20+ minutes

Indonesian Terrorism in a Global Context

Paper delivered at conference “Indonesian Terrorism in a Global Context”, on 5 December 2011 at Australian National University, Canberra. An expanded version of this paper will be appearing in a book, Indonesian Terrorism, edited by Greg Fealy and Sally White (forthcoming).


Jemaah Islamiyah, the organisation that will be associated forever with the 2002 Bali bombing, seems to have dropped from sight. While new groups are continually emerging, few of them involve JI members and there has been no violence explicitly linked to JI in Indonesia since 2007. Former members involved in setting up a terrorist training camp in Aceh in 2010 had all renounced or been expelled from the organisation.

This paper charts the deterioration of JI as an institution but warns that writing it off would be premature. Its history is longer, its capacity for regeneration more evident and its commitment to an Islamic state deeper than most other jihadi organisations operating in Indonesian today.

JAT, the organisation established by Abu Bakar Ba’asyir in 2008, has muscled in on JI in some areas, including Central Sulawesi, the site of deadly communal conflict between 1998 and 2001. The characteristics of JAT that make it different from JI, however, such as looser membership qualifications, may also be what assure its eventual demise.

JI has survived almost two decades of ups and downs, and while it may be currently in a deep trough, it is by no means finished.

I. JI’s Decline as an Organisation

There are many incidents one could choose for JI’s knockout blow as an organisation, but one of the most devastating was the police operation in Poso, Central Sulawesi of 22 January 2007 against the local JI affiliate and its supporters.  JI had long since lost much of its international structure. The Malaysia-based Mantiqi I, one of JI’s four regional divisions and arguably the most important for international connections, was largely destroyed in late 2001 with waves of arrests in Singapore and Malaysia.[fn]For more on these arrests, see Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs, The Jemaah Islamiyah Arrests and the Threat of Terrorism, January 2003.
Hide Footnote
 The arrests after the first Bali bombing hit its leadership structure. By late 2003, with the arrest of Indonesian operative Hambali, former leader of Mantiqi I, and the deportation of the last members of the cell called “al-Ghuraba” that he helped create in Karachi, Pakistan, JI’s direct links to al-Qaeda were severed, though sporadic communication remained.[fn]For the role of Hambali, see Ken Conboy, The Second Front:Inside Asia’s Most Dangerous Terrorist Network, Jakarta, 2006.Hide Footnote

Noordin Top, the Malaysian Mantiqi I member who broke with JI in 2003-2004 to form his own group,   took away some of JI’s smartest young militants like Ubaid and his brother Umar Burhanuddin – and much of the mystique of jihad as well.[fn]See International Crisis Group, Terrorism in Indonesia: Noordin’s Networks, Asia Report No.114, 5 May 2005. Lutfi Hadaeroh alias Ubaid (Ubeid) and his brother worked with Noordin on the 2004 Australian embassy bombing.Hide Footnote The death in 2003 in Mindanao of prominent Indonesian JI operative Fathurrahman al-Ghozi following his escape from a Manila prison and the arrest the same year of Taufik Rifqi, treasurer of the JI wakalah (subdivision) there, disrupted its structure in the Philippines.

Virtually the only project left for JI by 2006, and the one that occupied much of its resources and attention, was the development of a “secure base” (qoidah aminah) in Poso.[fn]For a full account of JI’s operations in Poso see Tito Karnavian, Top Secret, Jakarta 2008 and International Crisis Group, Jihad in Central Sulawesi, Asia Report No74, 3 February 2004;  Weakening Indonesia’s Mujahidin Networks: Lessons from Maluku and Poso,  Asia Report No103,  13 October 2005; and Jihadism in Indonesia: Poso on the Edge, Asia Report No 127, 24 January 2007.Hide Footnote  This involved a heavy investment in recruitment and training. JI trainers had been sent there on mostly short tours of duty since mid-2000, but as JI structures elsewhere were dismantled or under pressure, the importance of the Poso base increased.

By 2005 JI was financially strapped, unable to pay for the upkeep of families of its own men in prison, and the money from armed robberies or fa’i (literally seizing property of non-Muslims in time of war) undertaken by its members in Central Sulawesi seems to have been a much-needed source of income for what was left of the central command.[fn]Hence the anger of the executive council when Hasanuddin, the head of wakalah Poso, only delivered Rp.30 million of a promised Rp.50 million from the robbery of the district (kabupaten)  government payroll in 2006. See Berita Acara Pemeriksaan Ainul Bahri alias Abu Dujana, 14 June 2007.Hide Footnote  While the top leadership remained on Java, senior teachers continued to be sent to Poso, and business meetings of JI’s executive council revolved around how to get arms, ammunition and explosives up to Poso – and get money back.

The beheadings of three Poso schoolgirls in October 2005 triggered a massive police response and for the first time, the police counter-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, sent its top people to investigate this and a string of other killings and bombings that had plagued Poso since communal fighting ended with a 2001 peace agreement. They quickly identified the perpetrators and tried for months to persuade them to turn themselves in. When they refused, police decided to forcibly seize them from the neighbourhood in Poso called Tanah Runtuh that constituted their base. On 22 January 2007, police confronted dozens of armed militants from JI and other organisations that had come to their aid. By the end of the day, one police officer and 14 militants were dead and many more arrested.

The impact on JI of that operation was enormous:

  • It crushed JI’s base in Poso. Teachers and local recruits on the wanted list were either arrested or fled; others laid low.
  • Its credibility sunk to a new low when it was unable or unwilling to mount a retaliatory attack.
  • It led directly to the arrests of senior leaders in the central command on Java, including through payments to informants.[fn][6] One of the Wikileaks revelations was a cable from the American embassy in Jakarta, from 6 December 2008 which noted that the Indonesian police used money from the Department of Defense rewards program to make payments of $3,000 each to 13 informants whose information led to the arrest of Abu Dujana and others in June 2007. See here.Hide Footnote
  • It reinforced JI’s conviction that the enemy was too strong to fight, and that the focus should be on dakwah and education. The 22 January clash with security forces was the last use of violence in Indonesia by JI as an organisation.

With no structure to speak of, its top leaders in prison, and disaffection and betrayal in the ranks, JI lost much of the glamour that it had once had, even for its own members.

The unwillingness of the remaining JI leadership to sanction revenge action was particularly galling for some. Poso was not just anywhere: it was where dozens of senior members had gone to train, teach, preach and fight. The fact that so many fellow Muslims had come to the defence of Tanah Runtuh on 22 January meant that anger at police action over the final crackdown there went far beyond JI.

By the time Abu Dujana and Zuhroni alias Zarkasih, two of the few remaining leaders of any stature were arrested in June 2007, no impressionable youth looking for a jihad to fight would have been attracted by JI.

But it still had hundreds of inducted members, a network of affiliated schools, a publishing industry – though that too seems to have suffered a decline -- and most importantly, an ideology that it had successfully disseminated far beyond its own ranks. It also had a leadership that was determined to rebuild and focus on the creation of an Islamic state and one essential step was to purge its ranks of problematic members. The purging, as will be discussed below, coincided with Abu Bakar Ba’asyir’s decision to found a new organisation, JAT.

II. The Creation of JAT

As JI weakened, the dividing lines between it and other organisations also blurred. Its clandestine nature had reinforced its exclusivity and group identity. Secrecy, combined with lengthy pre-membership indoctrination, bred loyalty. The waves of arrests, with saturation media coverage, helped break open the organisation to the public and expose names of leaders and their families. Efforts at co-optation (often inaccurately referred to as “deradicalisation”) by the counter-terror police, Detachment 88, did the same. These efforts were overwhelmingly aimed at JI members detained in and around Jakarta, and had the additional effect of creating suspicion and distrust because it was not clear who gave information to the police about what. All of this created more problems for an organisation already in difficulty.

The main clandestine activities had been recruitment and military training. By 2005, the JI military wing had been reduced to a single Java-based unit led by Abu Dujana with the equivalent of squads or ishoba in Solo, Semarang, Surabaya and Jakarta whose activities consisted of little more than outdoor camping and physical fitness training. Members had one training session on the beach outside Semarang in December 2006 in how to assemble, disassemble and fire an M-16 but the use of guns was apparently intended for fund-raising robberies more than for targeted attacks.[fn]Testimony of Maulana Yusuf Wibisono, 27 March 2007, pp4-5.Hide Footnote  The need for cash, not just for all the members in difficulty on Java but also for those stranded in Mindanao, superseded all other goals.

Not only did JI have no plans for immediate action, but there was a strict ban in force on any amaliyah action other than in Poso.[fn]Testimony of Maulana Yusuf Wibisono, 27 March 2007, p.4 . The Surabaya unit did a surveying exercise where they went to the Surabaya airport and noted which were domestic and which international of the planes coming in, but it seems to have been more a training exercise than anything else and there was never any plot involving the airport. Abu Dujana also told the ishoba leaders that the recent bombings around Jakarta, presumably referring to the 2003 Marriott bombing and the 2004 Australian embassy attack, were not undertaken by JI and outside its control.Hide Footnote One JI member quoted his superior as telling him, circa 2007:

Brother, I am not going to think about amaliyah for the next 15 years. We’re more focused on putting the network in order. If we can’t stop you from amaliyah, we’ll send you abroad.[fn]Interview notes with Brekele, made available to the author.Hide Footnote

When military action is no longer on the agenda, however, then the attraction of being part of a militant organisation fades, and those who joined in the expectation of waging war would be attracted to another organisation with a higher prospect for immediate gratification – as was to be the case both with JAT and the Aceh training camp.

Unlike military training, dakwah is a very public activity that entails reaching out to a broad base. JI’s main recruitment pool in the past had been through its schools – which produced the equivalent of an officer corps – and conflict areas, where the indoctrination was more rudimentary.  But its leaders came to understand that once the organisation was so badly hurt, the only way back was through community support, and it had virtually none. It would build support for its long-term goal – an Islamic state –through public lectures (taklim).[fn]For acknowledgment of lack of public support and the need to acquire it, see interview with Abu Rusdan, “Bukan Pengecut Tapi Siasat,” An-Najah, May 2010.Hide Footnote  This meant a more public profile for individuals such as Abu Rusdan and more shared platforms with non-JI preachers. It also meant a more mixed audience. JI members who went to hear Abu Bakar Ba’asyir speak were likely to encounter many in attendance who had no JI background but simly wanted to hear a famous firebrand.  And the same people who went to hear Ba’asyir were likely to go hear other well-known teachers (ustadz), when they came to town.

This also affected recruitment: In the early 2000s, if a lively participant showed up repeatedly at JI taklim, he would have been eventually invited to more select gatherings for intensified teaching prior to induction.[fn]Women could be members of JI but they would be unlikely to be recruited through taklim in the same way.Hide Footnote  But by 2008-2009, that did not seem to be happening.  Even at taklim in the JI heartland of Solo, the radical community found each other but they did not necessarily find JI.[fn]One example is Roki Aprisdiyanto alias Atok who started out as a recruiter for the DI/NII faction known as KW9. An itinerant seller of Islamic books and a shopping mall parking attendant, he began attending lectures at one of Solo’s most radical mosques, Mesjid Muhajirin, Purwosari and Mesjid Kafayeh, associated with the publishing house Kafayeh Cipta Media. Atok said he eventually joined Yayasan Kafayeh, not JI. While JI used yayasans, or foundations, as fronts in the past, by 2008 when Atok joined, there were people involved who were already unhappy with the JI mainstream. At the Purwosari mosque, the usual speakers were Abu Tholut, Umar Burhanuddin, Muzayyin Mustaqim, and Joko Gondrong – in other words, a standard JI crowd. But there was discontent in this group as well and some regulars were closer to Noordin or a faction of DI.Hide Footnote

Regrouping took place elsewhere as well. In some areas, new networks formed in prison among JI and ordinary criminal followers. The result was a group whose members, once released, had a shared experience that was more important than any organisational affiliation. A network forged by the former head of the JI wakalah in Medan, Toni Togar, is an example. Imprisoned in 2003, he formed a new network in Medan’s Tanjung Gusta prison in 2005. He saw the group as an offshoot of JI that would be loyal to Abu Bakar Ba’asyir. But Ba’asyir’s loyalties had changed, and the criminal recruits had none of the history that would bind them to Toni’s former colleagues. The new group’s members had more in common with each other than with the post-Ba’asyr leadership of JI.[fn]Testimony of Fadli Sadama 2010Hide Footnote

In a few cases, networks were built around charismatic JI fugitives, who then distanced themselves from their old organisation because it failed to provide help to them in time of need.[fn]Dulmatin and Umar Patek also relied more on KOMPAK than JI in 2003 when they fled to Mindanao.Hide Footnote  Fajar Taslim, who had fled from JI-Singapore after the crackdown there in 2001, chafed under restrictions imposed on him by his JI protectors in Java and eventually ended up in Palembang, Sumatra in 2007-2008, where he helped recruit a new group that had nothing to do with JI.[fn]International Crisis Group, “Radicalisation of the Palembang Group”,Asia Briefing No 92, 20 May 2009.Hide Footnote

Abu Bakar Ba’asyir’s release in June 2006 did not serve to revive JI, because while he may still have been one of the most influential radical clerics in Indonesia, he was no longer interested in JI – and had major disagreements with the man who was the face of “mainstream” JI, Abu Rusdan.[fn]The two had been at odds since Ba’asyir agreed to head Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) in 2000 – Abu Rusdan thought it violated the principle of clandestinity, but Abu Rusdan was also on record as saying that there never had really been a JI amir after the death of its founder, Abdullah Sungkar, a not-so-subtle dig at Ba’asyir.Hide Footnote  He was more active in Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), an organisation he had helped found over many JI objections in 2000. His agenda, however, was increasingly determined by his sons more than MMI, and his younger son in particular, Abdul Rahim Ba’asyir, seemed to be  operating outside any organisational framework. Ba’asyir was still revered by many JI members but there is no indication that the JI leadership as it stood in mid-2007 consulted with him or indeed had much to do with him.[fn]This leadership consisted of the Lajnah Ihtiar Linasbil Amir (LILA), the search committee for a new amir, that consisted of Zuhroni alias Zarkasih, as head, with Abu Dujana, Abu Husna, Para Wijayanto and Helmi, serving under him as head of the sectoral units on military affairs, education, logistics and dakwah respectively.Hide Footnote

Then came a split with MMI over leadership and personality issues, and in July 2008, the creation of Jama’ah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT), with Ba’asyir as head. The new organisation was formally inaugurated in a ceremony in Bekasi, outside Jakarta in September 2008.

JAT embodied some of the realignments that had taken place over the last few years. It included long-term JI members from Ba’asyir’s al-Mukmin school in Ngruki, Solo; some MMI members; some former associates of Noordin Top;  many JI members, particularly from Java, who at least initially kept their JI identity but later chose sides; and many new recruits, some previously affiliated with other organisations, some without any prior history. It was different from both JI and MMI, Ba’asyir’s two previous organisations but in some ways a combination of both. It combined MMI’s above-ground dakwah and pro-shari’ah advocacy with JI’s clandestine military training and capacity-building, and it brought in not only some of the most experienced Afghan-trained instructors, like Abu Tholut but also men whose operational experience had been honed under Noordin Top.[fn]Imron Baihaqi alias Mustofa alias Abu Tholut was in the first Indonesian cohort to train in Afghanistan from 1985-1987; he stayed on as an instructor. He later became an instructor at the JI military academy in Mindanao. He formally joined JI in 1995 and served as head of Mantiqi III from 1997-2001.Hide Footnote  It had JI’s absolute leadership structure with MMI’s looser membership requirements. More than either, its top leadership was characterised by personal, proven loyalty to Ba’asyir.

The development of JAT provides a useful mirror to examine what happened to JI. The interactions between the two since 2008 show clearly that JI continues to exist as a separate organisation, and there are tensions between the two. Some of these tensions came out in the course of efforts to establish the Aceh training camp in 2009-2010.  

III. The Aceh Camp

In some ways the Aceh camp can be seen as an alliance against JI, a coalition of all the major groups since the demise of Noordin Top that were still willing in principle to carry out violence on Indonesian soil, even though few had any well-formulated plans. The former JI members involved had in most cases made an explicit decision to leave; in some cases, they had been pushed.

Joko Purwanto alias Handzolah, for example, born in 1975 in Sukoharjo, Solo near Ba’asyir’s pesantren, had been a JI member since the late 1990s and in 1999 had gone with Ubaid, one of the brains behind the Aceh camp, to Mindanao -- where Abu Tholut was one of their instructors. In 2006, while still living in Sukoharjo, he became the personal driver of a man known as Kang Jaja, a man who had played an active role in the Australian embassy bombing in 2004 as head of Ring Banten, a Darul Islam splinter. He fled to Poso where he was protected by JI leadership and where he seems to have joined JI, then eventually made his way to Solo. In 2009, both of them left JI, presumably to join JAT although this is not made explicit.[fn]BAP of Joko Purwanto.Hide Footnote

A revealing incident occurred in early February 2010 after Joko, Kang Jaja and Ubaid had gone up to Aceh together to help with the camp. Kang Jaja asked to visit a fugitive named Maruto alias Tejo, an associate of Noordin Top’s, who had been hiding in Banda Aceh since the second Bali bombing in 2005, protected by a JI member named Ruslan. Their Acehnese hosts took them over to Ruslan’s house and Kang Jaja asked about his friend. Ruslan told him that  he had left Aceh in 2008 with his travel arranged by a Medan JI member, but Ruslan would not provide any further information because he knew Joko and Kang Jaja had left JI.[fn]Ibid. p.11Hide Footnote

This suggests that in 2010, JI still had active members in Sumatra who were sufficiently organised to run what was in effect an underground railway for fugitives and sufficiently disciplined to keep secrets from their former colleagues.

Another long-term member of the JI elite who joined the Aceh camp was Qomarudin alias Mustaqim, now 38. He had the classic JI background: graduated from a JI school in Lampung, taught there briefly, went to Mindanao in 1998, became head of the JI training academy there, and returned in 2004. He was caught up in Solo in the wave of arrests that followed the 2004 Australian embassy bombing and was briefly detained, then released. He returned home to Lampung and got married. Then, in July 2009, for reasons which are not clear, he went first to Solo, then to Klaten to work for two months as an editor in the publishing company, Kafayeh Cipta Media – one of the most radical of the jihadi presses. Here he was in frequent contact with Ubaid, Abu Tholut, and other JI militants and released prisoners who led religious study sessions at a nearby mosque.

The same group, which had links through Ubaid to Noordin Top on the one hand and JAT on the other, met weekly at the Muhajirin Mosque in Purwosari, Solo. In his testimony after his arrest for his role in the Aceh camp, Mustaqim says that he agreed to take part in the Aceh camp because he had been expelled from JI on suspicion of working with the police.[fn]Testimony of Mustaqim, 28 September 2010.Hide Footnote  It is not clear whether this happened after his stint in Solo or before – he suggests it took place in late 2009 -- but the purge had the effect of leaving a highly experienced cadre without an organisational home and may have pushed him into a more radical community.[fn]There are several JI members who say they joined more radical groups because they were suspected of betrayal by their JI colleagues. Abu Tholut and Bagus Budi Pranoto alias Urwah are two others.Hide Footnote

If JI was expelling people with such a long track record and history as Mustaqim, it also suggests there was enough of an organisation left in place to undertake a vetting and selection process, and that this was more than just a matter of social ostracism in the local community.[fn]It is possible that what Mustaqim saw as expulsion was actually part of a JI policy that had been in place since before 2007 to ban released prisoners from returning to positions of authority in the organisation, both because their names had been exposed and because for better or worse, they had developed a relationship with the police. But Mustaqim had only been detained briefly, and he mentions another Lampung colleague, who also went to Aceh, who was similarly expelled but who had never been detained.Hide Footnote

More than that, JI was still providing intellectual leadership. The Aceh camp led by Mustaqim and Ubaid produced a video diatribe against JI in general and Abu Rusdan in particular for having abandoned jihad. But a much more impressive rejoinder called “Refleksi Jihad Aceh” made the case for the mainstream, whose  members include Abu Rusdan; the JI publisher Bambang Sukirno; and Hawin Murtadlo,Ubaid’s brother, and also a publisher).  The article, written by a JI member and Ngruki graduate close to Sukirno, makes a strong case for the failure of the jihadi community to produce any political gains and the need for a long-term strategy for an Islamic state that will have public support behind it.[fn]See Sidney Jones, “Countering Extremism on Indonesian Internet Sites,” paper delivered at CTITF Conference, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 24 January 2011.Hide Footnote

IV. JI and JAT in Central Sulawesi in 2010

Poso provides a particularly interesting case study of the JI-JAT dynamics. While the wakalah structure had been smashed and the leadership thrown into disarray, a sense of injustice remained among many in the old JI network, reinforced by the arrests. Many of the ex-combatants were un- or under-employed and had time on their hands, and many of those imprisoned between 2003 and 2007 were getting released, so a critical mass of experienced militants was coming back into circulation. (Far from cutting off communication with the network, imprisonment may reinforce it, because other members feel obliged to make regular prison visits to see their friends and bring them news.)

Several top leaders, such as Firmansyah, former head of the Palu wakalah, had been released but came out still very much committed to the basic elements of salafi jihadism and still imbued with a strong sense of persecution. In one interview in mid-2010, after he had been free for two years, he compared the government’s kid-glove treatment of separatists in Papua and Maluku with its killing of Muslim activists in the name of countering terror.[fn]Notes from a 28 June 2010 interview with Firmansyah, in Palu, made available to the author. He was particularly offended by President Yudhoyono’s triumphant announcement to the Australian parliament in March 2010 that Dulmatin, one of the Bali bombers, had just been killed.Hide Footnote  He and other JI members were actively involved in dakwah – by one account, reaching further into central Sulawesi than they had when the JI organisation there was at its height because no one was particularly concerned about non-violent radical preaching, let alone willing or able to curb it.

As others came out of prison, the network began to regroup. One important figure was Ustad Yasin, originally from Semarang, Central Java, who was sent to Poso in 2000 by the then head of JI’s Mantiqi 3, Abu Tholut.  Yasin was a broadcaster and was assigned to setting up a radio for dakwah purposes. Wounded in the shootout on 22 January 2007, he turned himself in and was eventually tried and sentenced to five years. He was released in November 2009 from Petobo prison in Palu.

Another ex-prisoner who returned to an active role after his release was Santoso, about 30, a graduate of Darusysyahada, the JI school in Boyolali, Solo who had long been active in JI’s Poso network. He was arrested in 2004 for taking part in an armed robbery of a truck carrying clove cigarettes but seems to have been out by 2006, because he was already making trips to Solo later that year. He also benefited from a poorly thought through “deradicalisation” program that among other things doled out contracts and public works projects to former prisoners on the assumption that if they had jobs, they would abandon extremism. Santoso was given a project in 2010 to clean gutters in Palu and he employed several of his followers on the project.[fn]Testimony of Sibghotullah, 14 June 2011.Hide Footnote  Far from helping change mindsets, the project served to throw Santoso together with several of his followers  – who eventually became the assassination squad that killed two policemen in May 2011.

Both men would have been well aware of the ferment taking place in Solo with the creation of JAT in 2008 and the growing tensions with JI. Yasin’s personal links to Abu Tholut might have led him towards JAT under any circumstances, but there is no reason to think that he or Santoso had any particular reason to stay loyal to JI. More than anywhere else in Indonesia, the police in Poso had assiduously cultivated prisoners, ex-prisoners and former combatants. JI’s local host during the conflict, Haji Adnan Arsal, had mellowed so far as to allow the teachers at his pesantren to become civil servants – at a time when sentiment in the radical community was increasingly hardening against the thaghut (tyrannical) Indonesian government that refused to apply Islamic law.

In the Palu-Poso area, as in Lampung, two groups began to emerge, the “pure” JI, like Firmansyah who were willing to follow the post-2007 line about focusing on dakwah and education, and the more militant members.

Sometime in late 2009, Abu Tholut went to Poso on a JAT recruiting mission and tapped Ustad Yasin to be head of JAT-Poso and Santoso to be head of military affairs.[fn]Testimony of Ariyanto Haluta, 1 June 2011.Hide Footnote  Santoso began discussions with Ust Abu Latif and others about reviving military training in Poso, and in early 2010, he began looking about for arms.[fn]Testimonies of Mu’arifin and Tongji alias WarsitoHide Footnote

Through an old JI acquaintance, he quickly found someone who had guns and ammunition and was willing to sell. The men he turned to for arms had also started off as JI members in the Solo area, became attracted to a more radical crowd and then got involved in the Aceh camp.[fn]Testimony of Tongji alias Warsito who through Sibgho was in touch with Abdullah Sunata – who claimed he had arms to sell, from Maulana.Hide Footnote  In mid-February, shortly before the Aceh camp was broken up, Santoso’s group acquired an M-16 in a transaction that took place outside Jakarta. They were intending to go back to Palu by ship from Surabaya, but because security was so tight in the port area with dozens of police and metal detectors, they left the gun with one of their Solo friends and went back home without it.[fn]Testimony of Mu’arifinHide Footnote

Santoso himself came back to Solo in mid-March both to buy another gun, discuss the fall-out from the Aceh debacle, and apparently raise the possibility of a new training site in the Poso area. He was watching television with friends who had fled Aceh, including Dulmatin’s brother-in-law, when news came of the police operation that killed Dulmatin. Anger at the police was already high; Dulmatin’s death pushed it higher.

On the same day he left for Solo, Nasir Abas, the JI leader-turned-police assistant, was in Palu visiting Nizam Khaleb, a JI leader released in 2007, as part of a police project to check up on how some of the ex-prisoners were faring. Nizam, a “pure” JI member, told Nasir there was no jihadi activity in Palu, neither JAT nor MMI, and Ba’asyir had not been there. It is highly unlikely that Nizam would have been unaware of Abu Tholut’s visit some months earlier; it is much more likely that he had been invited to join JAT and turned it down. Such men continue to be an important, if reluctant part of the support network of the more militant groups, both because of a de facto code of silence and an ethos that it is incumbent to help fellow Muslims in trouble, including those fleeing from the law.

This was underscored in early April 2010 when Joko Purwanto, the man who had left JI in 2009 with Kang Jaja, went to Makassar to talk to a contact there about getting arms from the Philippines and helping out the men who had fled Aceh, especially financially.[fn]The contact in question was Ahmad Sayid Maulana from Darul Islam who had also been involved in settling up the Aceh camp. He had access to arms from Mindanao and some of the fugitives were trying to figure out how to get to the Philippines and bring them back. For more on Maulana, see International Crisis Group, “ Recycling Militants in Indonesia: Darul Islam and the Australian Embassy Bombing”, Asia Report No. 92, 22 February 2005.Hide Footnote  The first step was a visit to Palu, where Joko and his friend went to see Firmansyah, the former JI wakalah head. Firmansyah was “pure” JI, but he immediately appointed one of his subordinates to help the visitors, take them around and eventually take them to Poso. At his suggestion, the first step was a visit to all the ikhwan in Palu prison, including the former Poso wakalah head, Hasanudin.  This was more than just a courtesy call. Such visits helped to maintain a sense of solidarity and told the prisoners they were not forgotten – but in this case may have also been a reminder of Firmansyah’s status, even though he himself did not go.

On 10 April, Joko and his friends left for Poso to see Santoso and Ustad Yasin. It became clear that Santoso’s plans for military training, in his capacity as head of JAT military affairs, were well-advanced. He and his inner circle were checking out training sites, trying to amass more weapons and stepping up dakwah, with the involvement of several ex-prisoners, most, if not all, of them with links to JI.[fn]One of these was Ma’ruf (Makruf), a Javanese from Ponorogo imprisoned briefly after the 22 January 2007 shootings. Not all the local recruits in Poso had been formally inducted as JI members, but many were loosely affiliated to the JI group in the Poso neighbourhood known as Tanah Runtuh.Hide Footnote  They talked with the visitors about stepping up armed robberies to raise funds, and they gave Joko and his friend a modest contribution to help the ikhwan from Aceh.[fn]Testimony of Aryanto Haluta, 1 June 2011.Hide Footnote  In late June, one of the most wanted of the Aceh fugitives, Sibghotullah or Sibgho, whose background was KOMPAK, not JI, arrived in Poso and with Santoso’s help, worked for a month in a cacao plantation before moving on.

On 9 August 2010, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir was arrested for the fourth time.[fn]Previous arrests had been in 1976, 2002 and 2004.Hide Footnote  For those like Santoso and his group who were already involved in JAT, this was cause for war – against the police.[fn]Testimony of Rafli alias Furqon, 27 May 2011.Hide Footnote

V. The Formal Establishment of JAT-Poso

Whether or not it was the arrest that triggered more systematic organising, there was a perceptible increase in JAT activity, with Ust. Yasin going around to former JI/Tanah Runtuh members to bring them into the organisation. In November 2010, Yasin went to visit Papa Enal, a 43-year-old veteran of the conflict and inducted JI member who had just been released from prison in 2009.[fn]Ananag Mufaidin alias Papa Enal had taken part in the 2004 murder of Rev. Susianti Tinelele, among many other crimes, and was arrested after a clash with police in Poso on 11 January 2007. He was sentenced to four years.Hide Footnote

According to Papa Enal, Yasin asked him which organisation he was in. Papa Enal did not understand the question. Yasin said, “We have two ships now” – that is, JI and JAT, and JAT had the more correct approach in terms of faith.[fn]In Indonesian, lebih kuat aqidahnya dari JI. See Testimony of Anang Mufaidin alias Papa Enal, 12 June 2011.Hide Footnote  A few weeks later, Yasin held the first major JAT religious discussion (taklim) at the al-Muhajirin mosque in Kayamanya, traditionally associated more with KOMPAK than JI.Those in attendance included men from JI; KOMPAK; Wahdah Islamiyah, a Makassar-based organisation; Hidayatullah, a conservative pesantren network; and others. It was a who’s who of ex-combatants, among them several former prisoners. Ust. Yasin had approached most of them personally and explained privately what the new organisation was about.[fn]Ibid. One of the prominent former prisoners there weas Moh. Fadli alias Opo, a KOMPAK fighter who was one of the original Afghan veterans.Hide Footnote

About two weeks later, at the end of November, Ust. Yasin called another meeting with two visitors from Java: Ba’asyir’s younger son, Abdul Rohim, and Muchamad Achwan, an old Darul Islam activist and one of the original members of MMI. According to Papa Enal, more than 150 people attended, and after the preliminaries were over, the microphone was turned over to Achwan to talk about JAT. Achwan explained it in terms of a power struggle between Ba’asyir and Abu Rusdan and said that Abu Rusdan had tried to usurp Ba’asyir’s position after his arrest in 2002.[fn]Ibid. In the testimony, Papa Enal  quotes Achwan as saying that this struggle occurred within MMI, but he seems to be conflating two things: the leadership struggle in MMI that led to the creation of JAT, and the appointment of Abu Rusdan as amir of JI after Ba’asyir’s arrest in 2002.Hide Footnote  Since Abu Rusdan represents the JI mainstream, the battle line between the two organisations was clearly drawn.

In December 2010, Papa Enal was officially inducted into JAT with an oath (bai’at) and the Poso branch of JI was inaugurated in January 2011 with Yasin as amir and Santoso as military head. Five months later, on 25 May 2011, Santoso’s unit planned and carried out an attack on police in Palu that left two officers dead and one wounded. The main motive was to get guns. As of today, Santoso is on the wanted list. And remains in hiding Yasin under Indonesian law has committed no crime.

It is clear from the above that more than three years after the 2007 crackdown, the Poso-Palu area was still ripe for recruitment.

JAT succeeded, at least temporarily, in pushing JI out because it had resources, leadership (Ba’asyir and his son) and a militancy that was gone from JI. JAT leaders sold the new organisation on the grounds that it was more religiously correct than JI, but they were also recruiting at a time of maximum anger in the jihadi community against the police, especially in the wake of the breakup of the Aceh camp and the relatively high number of ikhwan killed or captured.

Since the Palu killings in May, seven men have been arrested, including the gunmen, and two killed. There may be another hiatus before it is safe to try and build up an organisation again, by which time the pendulum could swing back to JI or to a group with a new name that houses the mainstream leaders like Firmansyah and Nizam Khaleb and their wives. If the badmouthing of Abu Rusdan at the inaugural JAT lecture suggests bad blood at the top, local relations are likely to be more fluid. The arrests of the Palu hitmen just adds another seven prisoners whom the rest of the ikhwan will be obliged to support, in a way that blurs the organisational lines.

VI. Conclusion: Jemaah Islamiyah Today

As of early 2012 JI still exists and not merely as a social network. In Lampung, Medan, Poso, Jakarta and elsewhere, there are not only identifiable JI members but also identifiable organisational activities. However, since those activities do not appear to be violating any law, the organisation is harder to track. Several things should be kept in mind, however.

JI is still recruiting. In 2008 and 2009, a member of Darul Islam splinter known as the Abu Umar group, said he and others attended a pengajian (religious discussion) in North Jakarta led by a JI member named Ust. Enang Erfan. Enang invited them to join a pengajian led by former JI central command member Muhaimin Yahya. They declined and found another place for their meetings. Shortly afterwards, Muhaimin Yahya and others founded Majelis Dakwah Umat Islam, MDUI, an above-ground dakwah organisation. In August 2011, an MDUI spokesman from Klaten was quoted as saying, “We’re sending our preachers (da’i) to the most remote areas: Papua, NTT, Maumere, Botang. There are 65 places outside Java where we’re sending preachers.”[fn]MDUI Klaten Selenggarakan Prodin”, Solo Pos, 12 August 2011.Hide Footnote JI always had a long-term vision. In 1999, police discovered a 25-year work plan. None of the small groups that have emerged recently have shown any hint of a strategy, let alone a vision for the future. JI remains committed to an Islamic state and to the need to build up the strength to prepare for war against Islam’s enemies.The pesantren network still exists, composed mostly of Ngruki satellites, although these should probably be seen more as generic radical than specifically associated with JI. Ngruki itself is the nerve center of JAT. Abu Umar’s children are attending al-Muttaqin in Jepara. Imprisoned KOMPAK leader Abdullah Sunata’s children are enrolled at Ulul alBab in Bekongan, Solo. What organisational affiliation these children will emerge with is unclear, but that they will be committed to an Islamic state is virtually certain.Abdullah Sungkar, founder of JI, has entered the Indonesian jihadi pantheon together with Abdullah Azzam and Sayid Qutb. That means whoever can rightfully claim his mantle in the future may have a chance at revitalizing JI.There are plenty of indications that a network of loyal JI members exists around the country – battered and scattered, maybe, but extant. It is not easy to be a jihadi organisation without a jihad, but no one should write JI off just yet.

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.