JI poised to strike in new terror wave

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A NEW breed of homegrown ‘twentysomething terrorists’ is poised to strike at Indonesia’s international hotels with a wave of suicide bombings in December.

These new generation Jemaah Islamiah terrorists are every bit as deadly and fanatically anti-American as captured leaders Hambali and Imam Samudra, said intelligence sources.

The Sunday Times understands that 12 of them, drawn from six terrorist cells in Indonesia, plan to turn the festive December season into a bloody nightmare.

Sources disclosed that at a meeting of JI leaders in East Kalimantan in March, Zulkarnaen, their new chief, and Azahari Husin, JI’s master bomb-maker, chose the targets.

International hotels in Jakarta, Surabaya and Medan were picked as one set of targets. The other comprised residential areas with large expatriate communities.

The JI has two bombs and about 200kg of explosives to carry out the attacks, according to an intelligence source.

A senior Indonesian intelligence official told The Sunday Times that aside from amassing bomb-making materiel, the JI had recruited and trained about 100 young militants over the past three years.

‘What is worrying is that Indonesia is turning into a happy hunting ground for extremist groups like JI to talent spot and train new militants,’ he said.

‘Ideologically, the newcomers are no different from their predecessors. They are just as hardline.’

Unlike them, however, the younger members did not fight with the mujahideen in Afghanistan. Instead, they bloodied the ground of their own homeland in sectarian conflicts in Poso and Ambon.

While the young new crop was not intimately involved in the Bali or Marriott Hotel bombings, their fingerprints are all over the new plans.

Interviews with militants by intelligence sources here reveal that three of the chosen 12 stand out as future JI leaders.

One of them, who goes by the alias of Maman Suharmen, is a member of the JI cell in Banten, West Java.

Now in hiding in Kalimantan, he is said to have attended bomb-making classes by Dul Matin, the fugitive militant who reportedly used a cellphone to detonate the Bali bombs which killed 200 people last October. Sources said Maman, 29, is being groomed to take over from senior JI figures like Imam Samudra, who is on death row for the Bali attack.

The second rising star is 29-year-old Nur Islamy. He is believed to be running a network stretching from Bengkulu and Medan to the Riau Islands from his base in Lampung, Sumatra.

Little is known about the third man, Zuharmen, 28, from Kediri in Sulawesi.

Most of the new radicals graduated from the Hidayatullah religious boarding school in Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, founded by a supporter of Kahar Muzakkar, the leader of the Darul Islam rebellion in South Sulawesi in the 1950s. It now has more than 100 branches in Indonesia.

Intelligence sources said that, in 1999, the JI decided to use a three-month religious training programme at the Balikpapan branch to recruit young Muslims into its ranks. One of the instructors was JI chief Zulkarnaen.

The students – numbering about 300 over three years – were indoctrinated with hardline Islamic teachings. Of this number, about 70 were picked to join JI’s clandestine network.

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