Militant groups’ growing tentacles
TERRORISM: ASIAN CONNECTION
South-east Asian governments are coming to grips with a new and more potent form of terrorism unleashed by Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network. The Straits Times bureaus in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines look at the growing linkages between militant groups across the region.
* Jemaah Islamiah (JI). Founded in 1995, with the aim of establishing a region-wide Islamic republic. It has reportedly 1,500 members in Solo, Central Java, and 500 in Tasikmalaya, West Java.
* Mujahideen Council of Indonesia (MMI). Ad hoc coalition of Muslim groups, with a membership of 50,000. Key leaders also linked to JI. It is seen as a valuable tool by Al-Qaeda given its grassroots reach and access to several radical outfits.
* Laskar Jihad. Established in 2000 to wage a religious war in the Maluku islands in eastern Indonesia. With 10,000 to 15,000 members, the paramilitary outfit sees itself as having a far greater mission than just defending Muslims at home.
* Abu Bakar Bashir alias Abdus Samad. The Muslim cleric, now 64 years old, fled to Malaysia in the 80s after spending four years in an Indonesian prison for challenging the then Suharto government. Named as a “directing figure” of Malaysian militants and also leader of MMI and JI in Indonesia.
* Hambali, also known as Nurjaman Riduan. Said to be Abu Bakar’s lieutenant and field operator in running JI and Malaysian militant groups. Now a fugitive on the wanted list of Malaysian police.
* Mohammad Iqbal Abdurrahman alias Abu Jibril. Another suspected MMI and JI member who is believed to be a “point man” between Al-Qaeda and several Muslim groups in Indonesia. Arrested by Malaysian police in June last year. Regional and international links
* Some 50 JI members in Indonesia received military training in Afghanistan. JI also reportedly received 1.35 billion rupiah (S$240,000) over three years from Al-Qaeda.
* Laskar Jihad is also said to have received 200 million rupiah from countries like Saudi Arabia, Libya and Afghanistan.
* Leadership and ideological bearings of terrorist cells in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have been largely provided by Indonesians, including Abu Bakar and Hambali. Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, suspected of plotting to attack American installations in Singapore, is also Indonesian.
* Indonesian territory used for clandestine meetings between militant groups from Malaysia and Singapore, for religious instruction in boarding schools, and for military training, including to wage war against Christians in the Maluku islands. Four tonnes of ammonia nitrate to make truck bombs in Singapore are now believed to be in Batam where radicals are taking refuge or using it as a transit point.
* Abu Sayyaf. Means “Bearer of the Sword” and the only group in the Philippines with known links to Al-Qaeda. With an estimated 500 core fighters, its goal is to establish a separate Islamic state in southern Philippines. Main activity is kidnapping for ransom and being a conduit in arms sales and distribution.
* Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),the country’s largest Muslim separatist group with an estimated 15,000 fighters, distances itself from the Abu Sayyaf. The group has the same aim: to establish an independent Muslim state in a predominantly Catholic country.
* Jemaah Islamiah.
Has no known members in the Philippines, though the authorities suspect there may be some local recruits.
* Abu Sabaya. Heads one of two Abu Sayyaf factions. His faction is said to be holding hostage an American missionary couple and a Filipina nurse. The military claims Sabaya, in his mid-30s, is ailing.
* Commander Robot. Leader of the other Abu Sayyaf faction. He mounted the cross-border kidnap raid in Sipadan, Malaysia, in April 2000. The military said he has been inactive since the last of the foreign hostages were released in September that year, in exchange for millions of dollars in ransom payments.
* Hashim Salamat. Head of the MILF and said to be a classmate of former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid in Cairo. The group is engaged in peace talks with the government, and a ceasefire has been in force since August last year.
* Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi. A JI member wanted in the Philippines for his role in the December 2000 bombings of a local commuter train station that killed 22 people, as well as for other terrorist activities.
Regional and international links
* Abu Sayyaf used increasingly as Al-Qaeda’s “middleman” to broaden its reach to other South- east Asian countries through arms deals, financial support and military training.
* Arrest of Al-Ghozi for a series of bombings in Manila suggests connection between Al-Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf and MILF. Intelligence sources believe Al-Ghozi was an explosives trainer for the MILF and had regular contacts with the Abu Sayyaf.
* Al-Ghozi, who was the chief recruiter of locals for the JI, studied in the Al-Mukmin religious board school in Indonesia that was founded by Abu Bakar.
* Kumpulan Militan Malaysia (KMM). Formed in 1998 with the goal of establishing a Darul Islamiah Nusantara or a region-wide Islamic republic. It reportedly has 65 members, 20 of whom were trained or fought alongside the mujahideen in Afghanistan in the 80s.
* Kumpulan Militan Malaysia Dua (also known as Jemaah Islamiah). Stated goal of this group, which has links to JI in Singapore and Indonesia, is to use force to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic state in Malaysia.
* Abu Bakar Bashir. The Indonesian cleric built up a following in Malaysia by holding regular religious classes over a 15-year period. A Malaysian permanent resident who returned to Indonesia in 1999, he was known to be the intellectual guide for radicals in KMM and JI.
* Nik Adli Nik Aziz. The son of Kelantan Chief Minister Nik Aziz Nikmat, he is known to be KMM’s local leader. Received a madrasah education in Pakistan and has reportedly been to Afghanistan several times to visit mujahideen training camps.
* Yazid Sutan. A successful businessman and the Malaysian JI’s senior lieutenant. Allowed Hambali the use of his apartment on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. The apartment was where meeting with one of the 911 bombers took place. He also reportedly received the order to buy ammonia nitrate for JI members in Singapore. Regional and international links
* Both KMM and JI had links to Al-Qaeda. Police investigation shows that at least 20 KMM members received some form of military training in Afghanistan. KMM also had links with the MILF and Abu Sayyaf.
* Indonesian connection most pronounced given the central role of Abu Bakar and his lieutenants. Indonesian preachers were instrumental in urging KMM members to protect their Muslim brethren in other countries, most notably Indonesia. This saw several of them fight alongside militants against Christians in the Maluku islands.
* Singaporean JI members were invited to give lectures to their Malaysian counterparts on the Islamic struggle in Asia. Malaysia’s JI was also given the task of organising terrorist cells in Australia.
* Jemaah Islamiah
* Abu Bakar Bashir. Singapore authorities released an organisational chart of JI that listed Abu Bakar as the top leader of the group. The cleric has claimed he has not visited Singapore for three years, but admitted that he used to give lectures on Islam in the republic when he was living in Malaysia.
* Hambali. As Abu Bakar’s lieutenant, he is said to have travelled frequently between Singapore and Malaysia. * Mohammad Iqbal Abdurrahman. Taught religious classes with strong anti-American sentiments in Malaysia. These classes were said to have been attended by some of the detained terrorist suspects in Malaysia and Singapore.
* Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi. Singapore authorities say he is one of two foreign “directing figures” of JI. He allegedly came to Singapore in October last year to assist in a bombing operation and also provided explosives.
* “Sammy”. Said to be the other foreign “directing figure” of JI, alongside Al-Ghozi. Little is known about him. Regional and international links
* Thirteen Singaporean JI members arrested by the Internal Security Department had been trained in Al-Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan, according to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
* JI members in Singapore and those belonging to a wing of the KMM allegedly travelled frequently between the two countries for secret strategy meetings to topple the government.