Washington warns of more terror attacks in Indonesia

A Jakarta cell, which is led by the leader of JI’s most militant wing Askari, is believed to be the most dangerous.

The United States issued a warning of more terrorist attacks in Indonesia as the Megawati administration revealed that there were many more Islamic extremists still in the country.

Following the blast at the US-run JW Marriott Hotel here last week, Washington said militants were planning strikes on US interests, including government offices, residences, hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, schools and churches.

The travel warning issued by the State Department came as Indonesian Defence Minister Matori Abdul Djalil said that Jemaah Islamiah (JI) militants, who received their training in Afghanistan and Pakistan, continued to operate in Indonesia.

Blaming the JI terror network for Tuesday’s attack in Jakarta that killed 10 people and injured 150, he said: ‘There are many more members on the loose in Indonesia -because of this, I am sure that JI is behind all of this.’

A police counter-terrorism source told The Sunday Times there were at least 300 Indonesians who underwent guerilla training in Sadaa, near the Afghan border with Pakistan, from the mid-1980s.

Many of them fought against the Soviets. There were ‘a few hundred more’ who received training with extremist groups in Pakistan and with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the southern Philippines.

The nucleus of the JI leadership today spent their formative years training in Afghanistan. The ‘Afghan alumni’ include figures like Hambali, Al-Qaeda’s point man in the region, field commander Zulkarnaen and Indonesian bombmaker Dulmatin.

Their overseas stints had allowed them to forge ties with mujahideen (holy warriors) whom they fought with in Central Asia, many of whom are now with terror cells in the Middle East. This external link has complicated JI’s structure and made it a greater threat with no clear lines in the chain of command.

Intelligence officials here believe individual terror cells are carrying out attacks without any coordination from the top. The primary motivation is no longer religion and the need to create an Islamic state in the region but revenge.

The Marriott bombing, for example, may have been carried out by JI elements active in Sumatra and Java and led by terrorist fugitives in Malaysia with ties to Middle East extremists.

It is unlikely that the JI terrorists who plotted the strike on the Marriott would strike again in the next three to six months, given their modus operandi of lying low after an attack. But that does not preclude the possibility of other cells coming to the fore with plans to mount fresh bombings.

The Sunday Times understands that a terrorist cell in Jakarta is considered the most dangerous. Led by religious cleric Zulkarnaen, the leader of JI’s most militant wing Askari, it is believed to have taken over a unit that specialises in assassinations. This unit previously reported to JI’s alleged spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir.

The activities and ‘chatter’ of the Jakarta cell could have sparked off the warnings by the Indonesian police, Australians and now the Americans.

Police sources said major cities like Medan, Surabaya and Sulawesi were being monitored for terrorist movements. The JI has apparently drawn up a list of 56 targets in Indonesia.

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