New Inner Spiritual Struggle-related violence on Sulawesi. “Terrorists open new front in Indonesia,” by Lindsay Murdoch for the Sydney Morning Herald:
HIGH-RANKING figures in the Jemaah Islamiah organisation have opened a new front in their terror campaign on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, where nine of their fighters and a police officer have been killed in the latest gun battle.
Terrorism experts say dormant Java-based cells of the organisation appear to have been reactivated by US and Australian-trained anti-terror squad attacks on militant strongholds near the Sulawesi town of Poso, 1700 kilometres east of Jakarta.
They say the violence in Poso during January has caused a dangerous escalation of what radical Islamic militants see as their jihad, or war, against non-Muslims in the mainly Muslim country of 210 million people.
Jemaah Islamiah, or JI, planned and carried out the two Bali bombings and a string of other attacks on mainly Western targets in Indonesia which have killed hundreds of people since 2002.
Scores of militant members of JI cells who apparently opposed attacks on Western targets such as the Australian embassy in Jakarta have travelled to Poso to fight.
“This is a dangerous development,” terrorism expert Sidney Jones told The Age yesterday.
“The ramifications could well be an energising of the jihadist movement, which in my opinion had been steadily weakening,” said Ms Jones, the Jakarta-based director
of the International Crisis Group.
At least two high-ranking and influential JI figures have been killed in Poso this month, one of them in the battle late on Monday in which police killed the nine militants, captured 18 others and seized a large cache of bombs, weapons and ammunition.
Police killed a prominent JI leader, Rassyah, from the central Java city of Solo, in a battle in Poso on January 11, which apparently set the stage for more violent clashes in the area.
Rassyah was trained in terrorism in the same class in Afghanistan as Ali Ghufron, alias Mukhlas, one of three bombers on death row who carried out the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 people, including 82 holidaying Australians. He apparently turned up in Poso in 2004.
Since then, Islamic extremists in the town have been blamed for sporadic bombings, beheadings, shootings and other attacks, which prompted the Government in Jakarta to authorise the US and Australian-trained Detachment 88 anti-terror squad to go to Poso to crack down on them. The policeman killed on Monday was from the squad.