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Attack Signals Rebound of Battered Terrorist Group

ICC Note:

Though it is still too early to say definitively who was behind the hotel bombings in Jakarta on Friday, many suspect bomb expert Noordin Mohamed Top – implicated in the 2002 Bali bombings, among others. In 2005, counterterrorism officials “found a video in which Mr. Noordin threatened more bombings, along with plans sketching out attacks on Christian churches and shopping malls.”

7/18/09 Indonesia (WallStreetJournal) Indonesian security forces had seemed to be getting a handle on terrorist threats in recent years after a series of deadly attacks earlier in the decade.

They captured or killed at least 200 Islamist militants, often with the help of U.S. training and equipment. Many analysts had said the government was so successful that it had all but obliterated the region’s best-known terrorist organization, Jemaah Islamiyah, an Islamist terrorist network linked to al Qaeda.

Now, intelligence experts aren’t so sure. A number of suspected Jemaah Islamiyah operatives — most notably Noordin Mohamed Top, who is implicated in the 2002 Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people — have consistently evaded the dragnet. Some intelligence experts fear Mr. Noordin or others may have regrouped into a resurgent Jemaah Islamiyah, or organized other terrorist cells that could plot further attacks if they aren’t apprehended.

Indonesian officials say it is too early to conclude who was behind the coordinated breakfast-time blasts in Jakarta on Friday.

Much of the speculation so far has focused on Mr. Noordin, a 40-year-old Malaysian accountant and suspected bomb expert who analysts say is arguably the most dangerous terrorist on the loose in Indonesia.

At the same time, Indonesia has moved steadily toward embracing democracy after years of authoritarian rule under the late President Suharto. Some security analysts began worrying more about the Philippines’ ability to clamp down on organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf group and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which are fighting for an independent Islamic state in the south of the predominantly Christian Philippines. Both the Philippines-based groups have links to al Qaeda and previously helped train militants from Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Peace talks between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front collapsed last year, leading to renewed fighting and the deaths of more than 300 people. Half a million other people were displaced. The Abu Sayyaf group, meanwhile, has resumed kidnapping aid workers, teachers and other people as they push their own separatist agenda.

Mr. Noordin, meanwhile, persistently evaded capture. In November 2005, counterterrorism officials tracked him and his chief bomb maker, Azahari Husin, to a house in central Java. Mr. Azahari died in a shootout with police, but Mr. Noordin slipped away before it began. Inside, investigators found a video in which Mr. Noordin threatened more bombings, along with plans sketching out attacks on Christian churches and shopping malls.

Court documents show that, in 2005 to 2007, one of Mr. Noordin’s intermediaries established contact with a group of 10 Muslims on the Indonesian island of Sumatra who were concerned about the spread of Christianity there. Mr. Noordin’s agent helped to radicalize the Muslim men, persuading them to kill a Christian teacher and plan a series of bombings on nearby tourist sites, the International Crisis Group reported. Indonesian police busted up the group in a 2008 in a raid that uncovered 22 explosive devices.

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