The good news is that Jemaah Islamiyah, the Indonesian terrorist group, has been badly damaged — as have other similar groups around the world. But if you think that the global jihad movement is a spent force, think again: according to this piece in the Straits Times, “the second generation of Muslim terrorist leaders in South-east Asia is even more hardcore than its forbear. Regional intelligence sources said that the new and younger elite of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) is imbued with the strongest commitment to the terrorist group’s cause of jihad or holy war.
“Many of them are the children of JI members and have been indoctrinated from young in the organisation’s schools. ‘They know no other reality than JI doctrines,’ one source said.
“Of the two Singaporean second-generation JI members arrested in October, one of them was the son of a JI member while the other’s father belonged to the 12,000-strong Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest rebel group in the Philippines.
“Among other trends which the regional intelligence sources disclosed are:
“¢ JI is still actively recruiting like-minded people in Muslim circles, more in some countries than others.
“¢ It wants to strengthen and augment the group with new blood at the top.
“¢ Indonesia is JI’s breeding ground.
“¢ Its members had hands-on training during religious clashes in Ambon and Poso in Indonesia.
“¢ The major JI training grounds are in Mindanao in the Philippines and in Kashmir.
“The major task of the second-generation leaders of JI is to spawn new terrorist cells, the sources told The Sunday Times. This is because the group, whose goal is to establish a fundamentalist Muslim state in South-east Asia, has been crippled with the arrests of several of its first-generation leaders and members.
“A significant setback was the arrest of its operations commander Hambali, the mastermind of a series of bombings in South-east Asia, including the Bali blasts in 2002 that killed over 200 people. He is the JI leader most closely linked to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, an Al-Qaeda leader based in Karachi who once operated from the Philippines. Khalid is now in US custody.
“In a further blow to JI, 13 Malaysians and six Indonesians who were being groomed as future leaders were recently arrested in Karachi by Pakistani security forces. They belonged to the JI’s Al-Ghuraba, or foreigner, cell.
“Two young Singaporeans training for leadership in the same cell were arrested when they returned to the Republic. Muhammad Arif Naharudin, 20, and Muhammad Amin Mohamed Yunos, 21, were schooled in handling weapons and explosives, urban warfare and espionage in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Although down, JI is not out. It is actively recruiting like-minded people in Muslim circles who they think are radicals. ‘It is not just cannon fodder they are seeking,’ said an intelligence source. ‘They want to strengthen and augment the group with new blood at the top. JI has been disrupted but it is still very much alive,’ he added.
“JI leaders and members have been keeping a low profile. Its members are careful to communicate by telephone through pre-paid cards or through the Internet, including chatrooms. The JI has been neutralised in Singapore, disrupted in Malaysia and lying low in Australia. However, it is active in Indonesia and the Philippines. Indonesia is JI’s breeding ground. There, it is enmeshed with the country’s political mood.
“JI members earned their combat stripes in hands-on training in religiously-divided Ambon and Poso, where they took part in bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians. Thousands have died in these clashes. The major JI training grounds are in Mindanao in the Philippines and in Kashmir. In Mindanao, the JI runs training camps in collaboration with the MILF. Observers say Manila downplays the MILF-JI connection due to vested interests. It does not want to affect ongoing peace talks with the MILF. The challenge for the Philippines and other parties, like the United States, is to wean the MILF from the terrorists.” A large challenge indeed. (Thanks to Jean-Luc.)