Jemaah Islamiyah, sometimes rendered Jemaah Islamiah, is a militant Islamic separatist movement, suspected of killing hundreds of civilians, dedicated to the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic state in Southeast Asia, in particular Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, and the south of Thailand and the Philippines.
Financial links between Jemaah Islamiyah and other terrorist groups, such as Abu Sayyaf and al-Qaeda, have been found to exist. Jemaah Islamiyah means "Islamic Group" or "Islamic Community" and is often abbreviated JI.
Jemaah Islamiyah are suspected of having executed the Bali car bombing on October 12, 2002. In this attack, Jemaah Islamiyah suicide bombers killed 202 people and wounded many in a nightclub. After this attack, The U.S. State Department designated Jemaah Islamiyah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Jemaah Islamiyah is also suspected of carrying out the Zamboanga bombings, the Metro Manila bombings, and the 2004 Jakarta embassy bombing.
JI was established as a loose confederation of several Islamic groups. Sometime around 1969, two men, Abu Bakar Bashir, and Abdullah Sungkar, began an operation to propagate the belief of Darul Islam , a conservative strain of Islam.
Darul Islam was almost exterminated back in the 1950s after members belonging to that sect instigated a rebellion in an effort to create an Islamic state in Southeast Asia.
Bashir and his friends created a pirated radio outfit to preach to the poor and oppressed in Indonesia. Bashir created a boarding school in Java. The school's motto was, "Death in the way of Allah is our highest aspiration."
Bashir was thrown in prison by Indonesian dictator Suharto's government as part of a crackdown and spent several years there.
He and his followers escaped to Malaysia in 1982. He recruited people from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. The group officially named itself Jemaah Islamiyah around that time period.
The members of JI ranted and distributed pamphlets, but committed relatively few acts. Bashir preached jihad but he would do very little violent action. This changed in the 1990's.
Bashir met Riduan Isamuddin, a.k.a. Hambali sometime in the early 1990s at a religious school that Bashir set up. Bashir became the spiritual leader of the organization while Hambali became the military leader.
Hambali wanted a large Islamic caliphate to be established across Southeast Asia, incorporating Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, and Cambodia. Such a state would have a population of about 420 million (using CIA World Factbook population counts). It would have a strangle-hold over the South China Sea shipping lanes which are a gateway between parts of Asia and the Indian Ocean. It would also have a significant air-space and would potentially affect trade between India, Africa, and Australia.
JI first formed itself into a group of terrorist cells that provided financial and logistical support when needed to Al-Qaida operations in Southeast Asia. Hambali formed a front company called Konsojaya to help launder money to such plots, including the Operation Bojinka plot, which was foiled on January 6, 1995.
The leaders of JI went back to Indonesia in 1998, when Suharto's government was toppled. Hambali went underground while Bashir openly preached jihad.
In 2000, Hambali ran a series of bombings of Christian churches. More attention went on the group after the Bali nightclub bombing. Another high profile attack was the bombing of the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta.
Bashir was arrested by the Indonesian police and was given a light sentence for treason.
Hambali was arrested in Thailand on August 11, 2003 and is currently in prison in Jordan, according to Haaretz.
A British-born Australian named Jack Roche confessed to being part of a JI plot to blow up the Israeli Embassy in Canberra, Australia on 28 May 2004. He was sentenced to 9 years in prison on 31 May. The man admitted to meeting figures like Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.
JI are widely suspected of being responsible for the bombing outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta on 8 Sep 2004 which killed 11 Indonesians and wounded over 160 more.
Last updated: 08-16-2005 02:14:01