Jemaah Islamiyah

Formed1993
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackDecember 24, 2000: Although JI was active throughout the 1990s, there is little verifiable reporting of their attacks until late 2000. In December 2000, JI targeted Christian churches, attacking them with a series of bombings on Christmas Eve. (14 killed, 12 wounded) [1]
Last AttackJuly 17, 2009: The JW Marriot and the Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta’s business district were bombed. Terrorism analysts believe that the likely perpetrators were from JI. (9 killed, unknown wounded) [2]
UpdatedJuly 8, 2015

Narrative Summary

Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is an Islamist extremist group in Indonesia that seeks to overthrow the government and create a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia. [3] It has ideological origins in the Darul Islam (DI) movement of the 1950s and 1960s, in which insurgents of West Javanese descent carried our a violent campaign that attempted to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia.  [4] [5]

In the late 1980s, evading prison sentences for their ties to DI, Yemeni-born Indonesian clerics Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba’asyir fled to Malaysia. [6] There, they began to form a collective of Islamists and facilitated travel to Afghanistan for Southeast Asian Muslims seeking to join the fight against the Soviets and train there. Experts disagree on the exact date that JI was founded as an organization, but estimates range from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, suggesting that the group coalesced over time before formalizing. [7] [8] [9] Many of its men trained in Afghanistan from the early- through mid-1990s, and some of the training camps were affiliated with AQ. [10] In addition to training, JI reportedly received resources and advising from Al Qaeda (AQ) throughout its formation. [11]

In the 1990s, JI transformed through relocations and training. By the mid-1990s, Sungkar had established training camps in the Philippines, which led to a strong relationship between JI and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. JI relocated to Indonesia after political and economic crises in 1998 forced three-decade Indonesian President Suharto from office. Sungkar died there from natural causes. [12] Meanwhile, conflict erupted between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia in 1999 and 2000 during Indonesia’s transition to democracy, and JI fighters gained operational experience by attacking Christian churches and priests, particularly in West Java, Sumatra, and Lombok, in response to Christian attacks on Muslims. [13] The group was responsible for a string of church bombings in Indonesia in December 2000, which killed eighteen, as well as a series of bombings in Manila in that same month, which killed twenty-two. [14]

Governments in Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines actively pursued JI within their own borders, while the Indonesian government resisted pressure from the United States and other regional governments to crack down on the group until after the infamous Bali bombings in 2002. [15] Some experts believe that the lack of action was, at least in part, a result of the government’s refusal to acknowledge a nation-wide Islamic terrorist threat and campaign against it in a Muslim-majority public that doubted JI’s existence. [16][17]  Indonesia was also undergoing a number of political changes, corruption scandals, and other instances of communal violence at the time. [18]

In the early 2000s, JI began to focus its attacks on Western and U.S. targets, a shift that was reflected in its actions and then publicly announced by Ba’asyir in 2002. In December 2001, Singaporean officials foiled a JI plot to attack U.S., Israeli, British, and Australian diplomatic buildings in Singapore. [19] Subsequent attacks on public spaces like malls, hotels, and restaurants demonstrated that the organization also seemed to become more willing to accept collateral loss of Muslim life. [20]  In October of 2002, JI perpetrated its most notorious attack when it bombed two Bali nightclubs popular with foreign tourists, especially Australians, killing 202. [21]

Following the Bali bombing, Indonesian authorities joined other governments in cracking down on JI, and in response, some JI leaders wanted to abandon mass-casualty terrorism and attempted to distance themselves from AQ’s calls to attack Western targets. [22] [23] JI officially began to focus on religious outreach, but associated members and cells continued to carry out attacks that were attributed to JI, and despite this splintering, media and analysts continued to refer to JI as a single organization. [24] [25] Despite increased security efforts and new goals among JI’s leaders, associated cells and members continued to carry out attacks. In Jakarta, JI bombed the J.W. Marriott Hotel in August 2003 and the Australian Embassy in September 2004. In October 2005, a suicide bombing in Bali killed twenty-six. [26] These attacks were allegedly tied to a JI cell led by Noordin Top, who became one of the most prominent JI leaders until he was killed in a shoot out with Indonesian authorities in 2009. [27]

By the mid-2000s, national security efforts had begun to seriously degrade JI’s operational capabilities. Since 2002, governments of Southeast Asia have arrested over 400 suspected terrorists tied to the group, including JI’s operational chief in 2003 and two senior leaders in 2007. Security forces have killed a number of JI's leaders as well, including the group’s senior bomb-maker in 2005, operational leader Moammed Noordin Top in 2009, and senior leader Sanusi in November 2012. [28] [29]

The increased security efforts not only decimated organizational leadership, but also forced the remaining leaders to rethink the group’s strategy, resulting in increased fracturing through 2010. [30] When JI’s leaders seemed to set the group on a firm path to becoming a nonviolent organization, Ba’asyir left in 2008 to form a new organization, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT). [31] In 2011, Ba’asyir was arrested and convicted for operating a militant training camp in Aceh funded by JAT and was sentenced to fifteen years in jail. [32] The last attack associated with JI came in July 2009, when suicide bombers linked to JI again attacked the J.W. Marriot in addition to the Ritz-Carlton in Jakarta, killing seven and injuring over fifty. [33] [34] Since then, JI splinter groups and other Indonesian militant organizations have been more active and received more media attention than JI. [35] In 2014, Ba’ayshir allegedly declared his support for ISIS from prison, but what remains of JI’s leadership today is firmly anti-ISIS. [36]

Leadership

  1. Abdullah Sungkar (Unknown to 1998): Sungkar was a founder of JI, along with Ba’asyir. He died of natural cause in 1998 after leading training efforts throughout the 1990s. [37]
  2. Abu Jibril, also konwn as Mohamad Iqbal Abdurraham (Unknown to June 2001): Jibril was JI’s second-in-command, and was JI’s primary recruiter. He was arrested in Malaysia in June 2001. [38]
  3. Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali (Unknown to August 2003): Hambali was JI’s operational leader and a head of a regional JI council until his 2003 arrest by Thai officials. He was also reportedly AQ’s director of operations in East Asia. He is currently in U.S. custody. [39]
  4. Azhari Husin (Unknown to 2005): Husin was a bomb-maker for the group who was suspected of planning several attacks in the early 2000s. He was killed in a police raid in 2005. [40]
  5. Zarkaish (Unknown to June 2007): Zarkasih was an emir of JI until his arrest by Indonesian police in 2007. [41]
  6. Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, also spelled Abu Bakar Bashir (Unknown to 2008): Ba’asyir was a founder of JI, along with Sungkar. He was JI’s spiritual leader until he founded the splinter group Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) in 2008 after leadership disagreements about group strategy. [42]
  7. Mohammed Noordin Top (Unknown to September 2009): Top allegedly led a faction of JI responsible for several attacks in the early 2000s. He was killed in a police raid in September 2009. [43]
  8. Sansui (Unknown to November 2012): Sanusi was a senior leader of JI. He was killed by Philippine security forces in November 2012. [44]

Ideology & Goals

Some analysts describe JI’s ideology as a combination of Darul Islam’s and Saudi Wahhabism. [45] JI aims to overthrow the Indonesian government and plans to create a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia that spans across Indonesia, Malaysia, southern Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and the southern Philippines. [46] [47]

Size Estimates

Designated/Listed

Resources

In addition to recruiting its members from personal contacts and religious study groups, JI also draws from a network of over fifty Islamic boarding schools that are sympathetic to JI’s goals. Imprisoned JI members have also reportedly had success recruiting other prisoners in jail. [52]

Funding comes from a variety of sources including member contributions, charitable organizations, legitimate business activities, criminal activity, and financers in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the broader Middle East. [53] [54] There is also evidence of financial support from Al Qaeda (AQ), and some analysts believe that AQ funded the 2002 Bali bombing. [55]

External Influences

JI does not appear to have a state sponsor.

Geographical Locations

JI is based in Indonesia and reportedly has members in Malaysia and the Phillipines. [56] The group aims to establish an Islamic caliphate across Indonesia, Malaysia, southern Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and the southern Philippines. [57]

Targets & Tactics

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, most of JI’s operations targeted Christians, attacking churches and priests in response to massacres of Muslims by Christians, particularly in West Java, Sumatra, and Lombok. [58] 

In the mid 2000s, facing increased security, JI began to shift toward using nonviolent tactics in its efforts to create an Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia. The last official JI attack came in 2007, although attacks carried out by associated members and cells have been tied to the group since then. [59]

Political Activities

JI is not actively involved in politics.

Major Attacks

Although factions within JI were responsible for some attacks without operational support from the group’s official leadership, attacks are generally attributed to the group as a whole.

  1. December 24, 2000: JI targeted several Christian churches across Indonesia, attacking them with a series of bombings on Christmas Eve. (14 killed, 12 wounded).[60]
  2. October 12, 2002: JI planned and executed bombings at a nightclub in Bali, killing 202. Many of the victims were foreign tourists, including 88 Australians. (202 killed, unknown wounded).[61]
  3. March 4, 2003: Authorities suspected JI’s involvement in bombings near a ferry terminal in the southern Philippines where the government was fighting Muslim separatist rebels. (16 killed, unknown wounded).[62]
  4. August 5, 2003: JI was responsible for bombing the JW Marriot in Jakarta. (12 killed, 150 wounded).[63]
  5. September 9, 2004: JI reportedly set off a bomb near the Australian embassy in Jakarta. (10 killed, 100 wounded).[64]
  6. October 2, 2005: JI was believed to be responsible for bombings in Jimbaran Bay and Kuta, tourist destinations in Bali, Indonesia. (26 killed, 102 wounded).[65]
  7. July 17, 2009: The JW Marriot and the Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta’s business district were bombed by militants who were allegedly part of Noordin Top’s JI cell. It was the second time that this particular Marriot had been targeted by JI. (9 killed, unknown wounded).[66]

Relationships with Other Groups

JI has links to Al Qaeda (AQ), although reports vary on how strong the ties are today and whether or not they extend to operations. Some analysts go so far as to say that JI is essentially an AQ branch in Southeast Asia, while others claim the goals of the two organizations don’t align, as JI focuses on establishing a regional caliphate while AQ ultimately aspires to have global influence. [67] AQ reportedly provided training, resources, and advising to JI leaders from its creation, beginning in the late 1980s. [68] Some members of JI received training in AQ affiliated camps in Afghanistan during the mid-1990s. [69] Multiple individuals from JI have either worked for or maintained close ties with both JI and AQ. For example Hambali, JI’s operational leader and a head of a regional JI council until his 2003 arrest by Thai officials, was also reportedly AQ’s director of operations in East Asia. [70] He was reportedly a key factor in the relationship between AQ and JI, and his appreciation of AQ’s ideology and goals oriented him to attack Western targets. [71] Analysts also agree that AQ influences JI ideologically and encouraged attacks on the West like the 2002 Bali bombing. [72] However, it appears that AQ’s influence on the group has declined since the early years of JI. [73]

In 2008, JI founder and spiritual leader Ba’aysir founded a new group, Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) after clashing with other JI leaders over the group’s strategy. [74] Despite disagreements at the leadership level, JAT has allegedly drawn a number of members from JI. [75]

JI has ties to other Islamist groups operating in Indonesia and broader Southeast Asia, especially those sharing origins in Darul Islam. These groups include Jamaah Anshurat Tauhid, Front Pembela Islam, Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, KOMPAK, Lashkar Jundullah and Majelis Dakwah Umat Indonesia. [76]  Its 1990s training camps in Mindanao helped establish a relationship with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Phillipines, and the groups have reportedly maintained good relations. [77] JI also reportedly has ties to Abu Sayyaf in the Phillipines. [78]

Although former leader Ba’aysir allegedly announced support for ISIS in 2014, JI has taken an anti-ISIS stance. [79]

Community Relationships

The Indonesian public initially was largely unenthusiastic about opposing JI and other Islamist terrorism groups, in part because many Indonesians doubted the group’s existence in its early years. [80] [81] However, after continued attacks, particularly the Bali Bombings in 2002, public disapproval of Islamist terrorism increased in Indonesia, culminating in the 2004 election of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, a general famous for his opposition to terrorism, to the Indonesian presidency. [82]


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