Jemaah Islamiyah operates (or operated) a network of insurgents in Southeast Asia. Based primarily in Indonesia, with branches in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Australia, it was responsible for the Bali bombing in 2002 and the bombing of the Marriot Hotel and the Australia Embassy in Jakarta in 2003. It has mostly been quiet in recent years. Jemaah Islamiyah means “Community of Islam.” It is a regional Islamist-terrorist group that has been affiliated with Al-Qaida.

Jemaah Islamiyah was created in 1993 by Abu Bakar Bashir—an Indonesian Islamist cleric—to establish an Islamic state that stretched across the Muslim areas of Southeast Asia. Initially it took a hard line against the West but was not involved in terrorism. It didn’t become aggressively militant until hard-liners took it over in 2000 and set up terrorist training camps, carried out organized attacks against Christians and planned ambition attacks against Western targets intended to leave scores dead. Jemaah Islamiyah operated in the open until the Bali bombing in 2002.. Only then was it declared a terrorist organization.

Jemaah Islamiyah Activities

Many of the key figures involved in the Bali bombing were members of Jemaah Islamiyah, See Bali Bombings, Marriot Hotel and Australian Embassy.

Jemaah Islamiyah has been activities throughout Southeast Asia. It was reportedly behind a commuter train bombing in December 2000 in Manila that left 22 people dead, the assassination of a Malaysia politician in November 2000 and a foiled plan to blow up the American and Israeli embassy in Singapore. It also helped Al-Qaida find housing in Malaysia for two of the hijackers involved in the attack on the Pentagon on September 11th.The group has been involved in other attacks in Indonesia and the Philippines.

Jemaah Islamiyah’s primary terrorist activity has been bombings although the group has made preparations to carry out political assassinations. There reportedly was a great debate within the organization as to whether to hit hard targets like embassies and military installations or soft targets like nightclubs, churches and shopping centers. There have been reports of plans by the group to carry out a biological of chemical weapons attack. A manual on bioterrorism was discovered at a Jemaah Islamiyah hideout. In June 2003 a man was arrested in Thailand with cesium 37, a radioactive material that can be used in a dirty bomb.

In the mid 2000s, counter-terrorism officials found links between Jemaah Islamiyah and like- minded militant groups in South Asia.

Jemaah Islamiyah Organization

Jemaah Islamiyah operates through cells and has a loose structure with two tiers of leaders and a force of young men that carry out their orders. The group reportedly has a structure like a multinational corporation with three geographical divisions: one in Java, one in Malaysia and the other in the southern Philippines. It offers training for explosives experts, contracts out smuggling projects and has business ventures that fund its activities,

Jemaah Islamiyah received some funding from Al-Qaida but operated pretty much on its own. It shared similar ideology and goals as Osama bin Laden but did not act on Al-Qaida’s orders. Money from Al-Qaida was funneled to Jemaah Islamiyah cells through Middle East banks in Malaysia. Jemaah Islamiyah also had close ties with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines and helped funnel them money from Al-Qaida.

Jemaah Islamiyah reportedly used Indonesian workers working abroad as couriers to smuggle money across borders not only for Jemaah Islamiyah itself but also for Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. Jemaah Islamiyah reportedly sent demolition experts to the Philippines to teach members of the Muslim insurgent group Abu Sayyaf bomb making techniques.

Shefali Rekhi wrote in the Strait Times: “According to Ms Sidney Jones, who heads the South-east Asian office of the International Crisis Group and has brought out numerous reports on the JI, the fragmented nature of the outfit poses the real challenge. A study of the former JI group shows that at every level, individual members had formed their own linkages, which they can now tap into. For the south Jakarta bombing for instance, those close to Azahari found recruits from outside the JI network - Heri Golun, the lone suicide bomber, belonged to the homegrown Darul Islam movement that was active in the 1950s. New leaders have also emerged but command lines through the organisation are not very clear. The groups that now operate are smaller and amorphous and function almost autonomously. [Source:Shefali Rekhi, Strait Times, October 19, 2004]

Jemaah Islamiyah Takes Up a Global Agenda

'JI has been globalised by its Afghan experience,' Mr Bambang Harymurti, the editor-in-chief of the Indonesian magazine Tempo, told The Strait Times in 2004. 'No longer does it have only a domestic agenda.' The Australian embassy attack in Indonesia was directed at Canberra's support for the war in Iraq. [Source: Shefali Rekhi, Strait Times, October 21, 2004 *]

A terrorism White Paper released by the Australian government in 2004 said Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has been trying to extend its tentacles in this region. LeT is among the dozens of Muslim militant groups which have been fighting Indian security forces since 1989. Indian counter-terrorism experts also point to a jihadi corridor forming along its eastern borders that extends from Bangladesh to Thailand via Myanmar and deeper into Southeast Asia. *

According to Mr B. Raman, a former senior official with India's intelligence agency, HUJI(B) or the Bangladeshi branch of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, which is based in Pakistan and has links with Al-Qaeda, trains Southeast Asian militant groups. HUJI(B) trains Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims and 'it has also started training small groups from southern Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and Brunei in the madrasahs controlled by it and in its training centres', Mr Raman says.*

Camps in the Philippines that have been training grounds for JI and other groups since the mid-1980s likely still exist, believes Dr Kit Collier, who authored the International Crisis Group report on the Philippines released in July. After the Philippines overran one of the main camps in the area, Hudaibiyah, JI moved further up into the mountains and set up Camp Jabal Quba, the report said. *

Arrests have revealed that JI has been trying to strengthen its links with Abu Sayyaf too. And funding keeps flowing. 'South-east Asia remains an important financial centre for Al-Qaeda,' says Dr Abuza. At the same time, he adds, JI has developed a funding mechanism to support its operations. It includes charities, front companies, donations and hawala (underground banking), gold and gem smuggling and petty crime. *

Jemaah Islamiyah Members

Jemaah Islamiyah had perhaps 5,000 active members in the early 2000s, most of them from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. They were recruited through family connections and friendships formed in Islamic schools. Some were picked to be fighters, Others were picked to be “ulema” (religious teachers), who provided religious justification for the group’s activities. Their ideology was molded in Islamic schools and training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Philippines.

Jemaah Islamiyah is believed to have had about 300 to 400 militants working for it. Abdullah Daud was regarded as typical members. He made several trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan and received military training with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines and fought Christians on the Indonesian island of Ambon. He told a human rights commission, “For me the root issue is that we go up together against the evil people who kill Muslims.”

Men were recruited specifically to be suicide borders They were told how to carry out an attack and prepare mentally for it. They wrote up wills but were not given specific instructions on attacks and targets until the last minute.

Nasir Abas belonged to Jemaah Islamiah and its predecessor groups for 18 years. On why he joined the groups, he told Time: "You have to remember how it was in those days. Muslims all over the world witnessed the suffering of their brothers and sisters," he says, sounding very much like a modern-day jihadi. When his teachers invited him to leave his native Malaysia to go to Afghanistan, he was thrilled. "I found it very heroic, a dream come true." [Source: Amanda Ripley, Time, March 13, 2008]

Jemaah Islamiyah Recruits

Shefali Rekhi wrote in the Strait Times: “Far from the spotlight, in the hinterlands of South-east Asia, militant clerics pound out a message of martyrdom: 'Join in, lend your support, Muslims are being oppressed.' These words echo through prayer sessions and sermons. With mesmerising words, distorted interpretations of the Quran and an overpowering presence, the clerics are targeting innocent minds to wage jihad. [Source: Shefali Rekhi, Strait Times, October 21, 2004*]

“Heri Golun, who blew himself up in front of the Australian embassy in Jakarta in September 2004, was among those who found the call to end his life too hard to resist. Less than a year before, he was just another aimless youth in his native Kebon Pedes village in West Java. Neighbours say he came under the influence of two hardline Islamic preachers who arrived at his village. The clerics were close to Rois, a lieutenant of key Jemaah Islamiah (JI) leader Azahari. They soon had seven youngsters, including Heri, under their spell. 'Golun prayed more often after he met preachers Akdam and Harun,' his father, Mr Didin Raidin, told Associated Press. 'His eyes blazed when he began talking about how we are at war with America.' *

“He was given US$2.80 (S$4.75) a day, which was double the average pay in the village, and two meals for watching over a nearby fish pond - reasons enough to not break away. The seven were shown videos - one was called Kill Or Be Killed - featuring scenes of Muslims being killed in Palestine and Afghanistan. Soon, they began to say Indonesia's government had failed to stand up for Islamic interests. In April, Heri decided it was time to act. 'He got all his brothers and sisters together to say sorry because he wanted to perform jihad and die a martyr,' his father said. “Dozens of similar cases abound. In southern Thailand, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra fears that a group of hardline teachers is behind the recent surge in violence. In the Philippines, it is the new Abu Sayyaf chief and spiritual leader Khadaffy Janjalani who is steering the bandit group towards terror. He even recruits teenagers for his cause. 'It's part of my job as amir (spiritual leader) of the group,' the fugitive leader of the Moro bandit group in Mindanao told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.*

Jemaah Islamiyah Recruiter

Shefali Rekhi wrote in the Strait Times: “Nasir Abbas, who was the regional chief for the Mantiqi III JI division that covered Sabah, the Philippines and Sulawesi, is now helping the Indonesian police with their investigations. After dropping out of regular school, he was pursuing religious studies in 1985 in Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan province, when well-known Indonesian cleric Abdullah Sungkar - who had fled to Malaysia - visited and offered him a chance to fight for jihad in Afghanistan. [Source: Shefali Rekhi, Strait Times, October 21, 2004*]

Nasir, who was 16 then, told The Straits Times he was thrilled at becoming the first Malaysian to be selected. He said he was however disappointed because he had to spend the first few months training. 'It was only during the holidays that we could join the mujahideen,' he said. A dispute between two separate Indonesia-based radical groups in Afghanistan - the Abdullah Sungkar-led faction and the Negara Islam Indonesia (NII) - forced him to join Sungkar, beginning his indoctrination into the ways of JI. *

In 1994, he said, Zulkarnaen - his teacher in Afghanistan and now believed to be JI's military head - asked him to go to the Philippines to train Muslims fighting oppression. During the next two years Nasir said he trained up to 350 men in basic military skills in Camp Abu Bakar. He was then directed to take up the deputy leadership of Mantiqi III and moved on to assume its leadership in 2001 after Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir asked him to do so, he said.*

Nasir became a weaponry instructor at a mujahedin training camp. "Give me any kind of weapon that no longer works, I can make it work perfectly again," he told Time Eventually, he rose to head Mantiqi Three, Jemaah Islamiah's training unit. 'I was responsible for the recruitment of JI members and for the movement of people in and out of the Philippines legally or illegally.' Money came - usually by hand - and was essentially for training. Of the Oct 12 Bali attacks, he said his brother-in-law Mukhlas (one of the top masterminds of the attacks) boasted to him that he was behind the attacks. Nasir said that's when something turned within him. 'I have always wanted to help Muslims, this was not right.' He was arrested in April last year and sentenced to 10 months prison. [Source: Amanda Ripley, Time, March 13, 2008]

Jemaah Islamiyah Schools

Jemaah Islamiyah established a number of schools throughout Southeast Asia. These schools provided means for gaining new recruits, indoctrinating them with extremist ideology, training them and providing cover for terrorist activities. A number of boarding schools are affiliated with Abu Bakar Bashir, including his original Al-Mukmin boarding school in Solo, Indonesia. It now has dormitory facilities for about 2,000 students who pay $20 a month in fees and are only allowed to leave once a month. There is no television but there are signs in English and Arabic that read “Jihad is our way. death is the way of Allah.”

All the top leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah—including Bashir and Hambali—the primary figures in the Bali bombing—Imam Sanrudra, Amrozi and Mukhlas—all worked or taught at Luqmanul Hakiem Islamic School in Uli Tiram in Johor State, Malaysia. They came to Malaysia in the 1980s and 90s to escape crackdowns on Muslim activists in Indonesia under Suharto. The school at one pont had 300 students enrolled. Many of the people mentioned above were also students at Bashir-affiliated schools in Indonesia.

The Luqmanul Hakiem Islamic School was not registered with state religious authorities. Its curriculum was unknown but thought to be a mixture of traditional Koranic teaching mixed with extremist ideology. The schoo was shut down in the early 2000s. As of 2003, all the teachers and administrators once associated with th school were either in prison or on the run.

In 1989, a government official went to check out a Al Mukmin offshoot school in southern Sumatra and was hacked to death. The next day soldeirs landed in helicopters and killed 246 people at the school, including 94 who were under the age of 17.

Students at Jemaah Islamiyah Schools

Students at Jemaah-Islamiyah-linked schools were recruited to carry out terrorist activities. Parents were told that “Americans were the worst form of infidels” and encouraged to “donate part of their salaries to help Muslim fighters in the region and in Afghanistan to buy weapons to kill as many Americans as possible.’ Students were told that Muslim fighter who died fighting against Americans would not only receive a spot in heaven but would also get 70 spots for relatives and friends.

Some students carried pictures of Osama bin Landen and wore sandals with Israel and the USA printed on the soles (the feet are regarded as dirty and vile in Asian and Muslim cultures). Students considered potential terrorist material were reportedly invited to join special study groups and told it was their duty to defend Islam by attacking infidels.

Shefali Rekhi wrote in the Strait Times: “The brainwashing and recruitment campaign continues in open fields as well as in select Muslim boarding schools, known locally as pesantrens. Dr Zachary Abuza, the Boston-based author of Militant Islam In South-east Asia, says that Indonesian security forces believe a network of some 60 to 100 pesantrens could be JI recruitment centres. [Source: Shefali Rekhi, Strait Times, October 21, 2004]

As of 2004 about 1,800 students continue to study at Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir's Al-Mukmin Islamic boarding school in Ngruki, which has educated or hosted more than 30 accused and convicted JI operatives.

Jemaah Islamiyah Training Camp in the Philippines

Jemaah Islamiyah established a terrorist training camp in the southern Philippines with the helps of Philippine ally the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Trainees were taught how to make bombs, use maps and fire AK-47s and put through boot-camp style training. The first trainees graduated in April 2000. An offensive by the Philippine armed forced destroyed the first camp. But a new one was set to almost immediately afterwards

A hostage of the Abu Sayyaf said that Indonesians helped train Abut Sayyaf at the camp on the island of Jolo in southern Philippines. The recruits “were taught sniping, combat, and trained in dismantling bombs and making bombs that could be set off using cell phones and alarm clocks, the hostage said. Their training started at dawn with a run through the jungle, followed by a reading of the Koran and that day’s training sessions which included making bombs from unexploded mortars fired at them by the Philippine army. If a Philippine army helicopter appeared the trainees quickly scrambled for cover and after it had passed resumed their training

Most of the trainees were said to be Indonesians. The idea was to train them in the Philippines for attacks in Indonesia. It is quite easy for Indonesians to travel to the Muslim-dominated southern Philippines on boats used by pirates and smugglers. Many of those selected for the camps were star students in Islamic schools.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had been running camps in the Philippines for a long time. In 1998, it was estimated that 400 Indonesians trained at MILF camps were shipped to the Moluccass and took part in fighting there.

Before the Taliban was ousted in 2002, some Islamists trained in the Philippine camps were sent to camps in Afghanistan. One Southeast Asian man said he met Osama bin Laden four times in Afghanistan. He told the Washington Post that bin Laden showed him and other recruits videos of Palestinian civilians dying after Israeli attacks. “Osama was crying and said, “These people are my brothers in Islam. They ask for my help and your help,”

As of June 2003, rough camps comprised of a few huts and tents were still operating in the southern Philippines. Most of the trainees were from Malaysia and Indonesia but some came from as far away as Pakistan and the Middle East. The camps put an emphasis on jungle warfare and explosives. As of March 2004. Jemaah Islamiyah was planning on closing its camps in the Philippines because the MILF was engaged in peace talks with the Philippine government.

Leaving Jemaah Islamiah

Amanda Ripley wrote in Time, “On Christmas Eve 2000, a wave of Jemaah Islamiah church bombings killed 19 in Indonesia. Nasir heard about it on the news, and he was distraught. "It was against the teachings of the Prophet, which bar Muslims from destroying places of worship." Then in 2002, a massive bombing rocked a Bali nightclub, killing 202. Nasir had trained two of the men involved. "I felt really troubled," he says. "I tried to talk to people in the organization, but what could you do when they wouldn't listen?" [Source: Amanda Ripley, Time, March 13, 2008+]

“On April 18, 2003, the police forced the issue. Nasir was arrested in East Jakarta and sent to prison for 10 months on immigration charges. He cooperated in order to get a shorter sentence and because, he says, he was tired of the lies. Nasir helped put away several Bali plotters, and he published a 2005 book arguing against killing civilians. "It's well defined in the Koran whom we are supposed to fight. It is not justifiable to kill anyone who is innocent."+
“Today, as an adviser to Indonesia's antiterrorism squad, Special Detachment 88, Nasir visits ex-comrades in jail to persuade them to cooperate and speaks critically of Jemaah Islamiah in the media. So far, the program has helped disengage two dozen Jemaah Islamiah members, according to the independent International Crisis Group.” +

Jemaah Islamiah in Singapore

In February 2003, Mas Selmat Kastari, the leader of a Singaporean cell of Jemaah Islamiyah, was arrested on the Indonesian island of Bintang. He had been on the run since December 2001 after a plan to blow up the U.S. Embassy in Singapore was uncovered. Kastari, a Singaporean citizen, was found with a book on suicide bombing in his possession,

In his trial in Jakarta, Jemaah Islamiyah leader Bakar Bashir called Singapore an “evil kingdom” and accused Singapore authorities of torturing witnesses to testify against him.

Jemaah Islamiyah and Militant Groups in the Philippines

Money from Al-Qaida to groups like Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf has been funneled through Jemaah Islamiyah. In July 2003, Jemaah Islamiah members were charged with plotting and financing the Manila bombings in December 2000.

Taufik Rifqi, a top operative for Jemaah Islamiyah, was arrested in Manila in October 2003. A few weeks later bombmaking equipment and Jemaah Islamiyah bombmaking manuals were found a few kilometers away a house believed to be a Jemaah Islamiyah hideout. Eight men were staying in the house, including two Indonesians and two Malaysians.

See Indonesia

See Southeast Asia

Jemaah Islamiyah Plans Attacks with Militant Groups in the Philippines

In 2005, Yoshinari Kurose wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Three Southeast Asian radical Islamic organizations are believed to be in the final stages of preparing simultaneous bombings in Jakarta, Manila and Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines, according to security sources. Security sources told The Yomiuri Shimbun that the three organizations are Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a Southeast Asian terrorist group, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is seeking independence for the southern Philippines, and Abu Sayyaf. [Source: Yoshinari Kurose,Yomiuri Shimbun, June 24, 2005**]

“Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the Al-Qaida terrorist network's No. 3 man arrested in northwestern Pakistan in May, ordered the joint terrorist operation to target major countries' facilities, possibly including U.S. and British embassies, the sources said. Saudi Arabian supporters funded the operation and pledged to pay a bonus to terrorists should their attack damage U.S. facilities, the sources said. **

“Azahari Husin and Noordin Muhammad Top, two JI leaders believed to have been responsible for the terrorist bombings in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2002; Dulmatin and Umar Patek, two senior JI members thought to be under the protection of MILF; and Khaddafy Janjalani of Abu Sayyaf planned the terrorist attacks, the sources said. **

“The three organizations, which have formed an alliance in an attempt to foil the police crackdown, are also thought to be behind the Feb. 14 simultaneous bombings in Manila, and Davao and General Santos on Mindanao, the sources said. Azahari and his followers wired five passenger cars with bombs in Indramayu, West Java Province, Indonesia, about 175 kilometers east of Jakarta, and had suicide bombers--who underwent training at a secret camp called Jabal Quba near Mt. Kalalao on Mindanao--drive the vehicles to Jakarta, the sources said. **

“On June 3, an official of the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta warned U.S. citizens in Indonesia that terrorists were planning to blow up lobbies of Jakarta hotels popular with Westerners. Because embassies in the countries have stepped up security measures to prevent terrorist attacks, the terrorists might instead attack softer targets, including European and U.S. hotels, the sources said. Terrorists driving car bombs could slip through police cordons in Jakarta and Manila to target buildings that are less tightly protected, the sources said. **

Abu Bakar Bashir

Abu Bakar Bashir is regarded as the founder and spiritual head of Jemaah Islamiyah. He is a well-known figure in Indonesia. He is supported by a passionate by a vocal and passionate group of admirers but is viewed by many Indonesians as a crank. Although as time has gone on and the United States has grown more unpopular he has won more admirers.

Bashir was born in 1938. He founded the Al-Mukmim boarding school in Solo in Central Java in 1971. He was accused of treason in 1979 under Suharto and jailed for four years. In 1985, he fled to Malaysia to escape a crackdown on militants by the Suharto regime. In Malaysia he ran a religious school with Hambali (See Below), another powerful Jemaah Islamiyah leader, reportedly worked hard to establish and expand Jemaah Islamiyah in Malaysia.

Bashir returned to Indonesia in 1999 after the fall of Suharto and ran the al-Mukmin a religious boarding school in Solo in Central Java. Many Jemaah Islamiyah members and participants in terrorist activities in Indonesia attended his school.

Abu Bakar Bashir Ideology

Bashir has expressed his admiration for the Taliban and called Osama bin Laden a “Muslim hero and warrior of God.” His ideology is similar to that of the Taliban and Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi school of Islam. He was one of the first to call for the creation of a huge Southeast Asian Islamic state that would include Indonesia, Malaysia, the southern Philippines and Brunei.

Bashir has said the adoption of ideology that originates from non-Muslims as following the path of Satan and denounced the United States as a “terrorist nation” and called the Jews “a race cursed by God.” “Both will conspire to destroy Islam and the Muslims,” he says.

Bashir has praised suicide bombers and called them martyrs. In his book “Dakwah and Jihad” he wrote: “Even if one were to die as a result of this struggle, his death would be not be in vain as he will be a martyr and be amply rewarded in heaven.”

Bashir extols violence but disclaims any role in it. On his influence on terrorists he told AP, “I make many knives, I sell many knives but I am not responsible for how they are used.” When asked if it was okay to steal a foreigner’s bank card and use it to steal money, Bashir replied. “We take their blood, so why not take their money as well?”

Abu Bakar Bashir and the Indonesian Government

For a long time Bashir was regarded as untouchable. Although it was widely believed that he was the spiritual and ideological force behind much of the terrorism activity in Southeast Asia, the Indonesian government refused to arrest him, saying it had no evidence that he committed any crimes. All that changed after the Bali bombing.

See Trial of Abu Bakar Bashir


Riduan Isamuddin, alias Hambali, was regarded as the operations chief for Jemaah Islamiyah, its main link with Al-Qaida and a primary Al-Qaida operative in Southeast Asia. He made plans and gave out orders with Jemaah Islamiyah and was reportedly the only non-Arab member of the Al-Qaida’s military committee.

Hambali is a Sundanese Indonesian. The son of peasant farmers from West Java, he was a stocky man with a round face. He worse glasses and had a wispy beard and blended easily into crowds Born in 1966, Hambali was the eldest son of 13 children. His great grandfather founded a religious school. His mother told Time that as boy he was “very religious, but also very quite, aloof and reserved.” As a teenager he became involved in local groups that later would become Jemaah Islamiah. In 1985, he accompanied Bashir to Malaysia and the two men ran a religious school together. In the late 1980s he fought for the mujahideen against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He returned to Malaysia in the early 1990s and lived in a $25 a month shack and supported himself by selling satay on the streets.

Hambali went undergound in May 2001. He reportedly returned to Afghanistan an was at an Al-Qaida camp at the time of September 11th. After the American invasion he reportedly personally fired a Stinger missile at a U.S. plane but missed because the plane was flying too high.

Hambali’s Terrorist Activities

Hambali is the alleged organizer of the Bali bombing that killed 202 people in October 2002 and the bomb attack on the Jakarta Marriot hotel which left 12 dead. He was also believed to be involved in setting up meeting for the September 11th hijackers and participated in the 1995 plot to blow up 11 U.S. airliners over the Pacific.

A top Indonesian law enforcement official said that “Hambali was involved in 39 bombings in Indonesia” between August 2000 and the Bali blasts in October 2002. In many cases he chose which bombig missions to conduct and financed them. An arrested bomber said he made contact with militants through prayer groups and paid $6,000 donated by a Malaysia woman concerned about the treatment of Muslims in Indonesia.

Amrozi, one of the Bali bombers testified that Hambali finance a car bombing in 2000 that injured the Philippine ambassador to Indonesia. Amrozi said that Hambali gave him money and told him to buy a Suzuki Carry for the bombing.

Arrest of Hambali

In July 2003, Hambali was arrested in Ayutthaya, 45 mile north of Bangkok in Thailand. A dozen undercover agents burst into the apartment where he was staying with his wife. He had a handgun with him but did not have time to use it. Authorities were tipped of by the CIA, which had tracked one of his phone calls to Ayutthaya and tips from Muslim Thais who reported a foreigner at their local mosque and Internet café that did not speak Thai. He was carrying a Spanish passport. His face had reportedly been altered by plastic surgery.

After his arrest Hambali was turned over to the CIA and taken to the remote Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. He was arrested at same time as three other men linked with Jemaah Islamiiyah, The men reportedly had plans to blow up embassies, American-owned hotels and Israeli-owned businesses in Bangkok and the resorts in Pattaya and Phuket. They were also considering staging a major attack at an APEC meeting attended by U.S. President George Bush in Bangkok. Under interrogation by U.S. investigators, Hambali said hey were also considering attacks a shopping complex and a synagogue and Israeli embassy in Manila.

While he was living in Thailand, Hambali eschewed Muslim clothes and wore shorts and a T-shirt and was clean shaven. He told his suspicious neighbors there he was salesman . Hambali had been on the run since December 2001, when Singapore cracked down on Islamic militants in the wake of September 11th. He had crossed borders of Malaysia, Cambodia, Burma and Thailand and managed to stay a step ahead of his pursuers, who on one occasion came within a day of catching him. In January 2002 he entered Thailand from Malaysia. From September to March 2003 he stayed in Phnom Penh in Cambodia in a guesthouse popular with budget travelers. Using a false passport he traveled to Laos and Burma, entering Thailand about two weeks before his arrest.

Other Jemaah Islamiyah Leaders

Ali Ghufron, also known as Mukhlas, is said to have been the operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah. He spent three years in Afghanistan, fighting Soviet forces there, and met Osama bin Laden in 1987. He is believed to have taken control of Jemaah Islamiyah when Hambali was forced to go underground. He was elder brother of Amrozi and Mubarak, two men involved in the Bali bombing. He was arrested and sentenced to death for his involvement in the Bali bombing

After Hambali and Mukhlas were captured, the leadership of Jemaah Islamiah’ appeared to have been taken over by Dr. Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Top, two Malaysians involved with the Marriot bombing and Australia embassy bombing in Jakarta. Husin was Jemaah Islamiah’s operation chief (2003). A British-trained engineer and explosives expert, he was a lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia. He was trained in explosives at al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and used his university as a base to recruit students for Islamic groups. He is believed to have designed the bomb used in the Bali bombing, Azahari and Noordin were almost caught in October 2003,. Police found them in Bandung in West Java and could have shot them dead but were worried they might detonate bombs they were carrying. The hunt for Husin was stepped up after the bombing outside the Australian Embassy bombing in south Jakarta in September 2004.

Shefali Rekhi wrote in the Strait Times; “Husin is a former university professor - who turned away from the academic life after hearing sermons from Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir in the 1990s - is believed to have prepared the bombs for the Bali attack and masterminded the Marriott Hotel strikes. He trained himself in the Philippines and then in Afghanistan. Police believe he played a key role in all the three bombings in Indonesia after 9/11. [Source:Shefali Rekhi, Strait Times, October 19, 2004*]

Noordin Mohamad was suspected of planning the 2004 bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. “He has been aided by his key lieutenant, Noordin Mohamad Top, 34, described as a 'whiz' in hiring and preparing militants for martyrdom - or suicide bombings. Noordin found time to take a break in June to marry his second wife - Munfiatun - while still on the run before leaving her the following month to prepare for the Australian Embassy attacks. Noordin Mohammed Top Azahari's top lieutenant is known for his skills in recruiting suicide bombers. Indonesian police's General Pranowo says that Noordin's ability to recruit is remarkable because he cannot speak Arabic. Security officials worry that Azahari has broken with the region's most dreaded group - Jemaah Islamiah - to form his own more radical splinter group. The latter is at odds with those within the JI who slammed the recent attacks which left mostly Indonesians dead. Like Azahari, others too seem to have formed breakaway terror cells of their own. *

Zulkarnaen was named as a successor to Hambali. He is believed to have been head of a group befind the 2003 Jakarta Marriot bombing. Rekhi wrote: “Zulkarnaen a former biology student who figures among those from the region who trained in Afghanistan. He stepped in late last year as JI operations chief, replacing Hambali after his August arrest. The top military trainer is a member of JI's central command. Dulmatin another top new JI figure, the Malaysian electronics expert is believed to have designed the bomb used in the 2002 Bali attack. Dulmatin reportedly was a used-car salesman before turning to terrorism. Abu Dujanah believed to be the new leader of JI's most important division. Some say he has replaced cleric Abu Bakar Bashir. Former secretary of the JI central command, he reportedly had Azahari and Noordin reporting to him. *

“One of the key trainers for the conflict in Maluku and Poso, Imam Samudra, went on to become the field commander for the Bali attacks. More recently, the suicide bomber involved in the South Jakarta bombing, Heri Golun, was motivated to join in the jihad after hearing of the thrill that his friend Didi Gepang experienced while fighting in Poso in South Sulawesi. *

Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi was a top bomb make who escaped from a prison in the Philippines.

See Singapore.

In February 2008 the U.S. State Department asked for an additional $6 million in reward money for the capture of terrorists in Southeast Asia. Among those on the list were 1) Umar Patek, participant in the Bali bombing ($1 million bounty); 2) Dulmatin, considered one of the key planners of the Bali bombing ($10 million bounty); 3) Zulharnean; 4) Noordin Top; 5) Zulkifli bin Hir, involved in a string of bombings in the Philippines in 2006 ($5 million bounty); and Isnilon Hapilon, indicted in the 2002 kidnapping of an American in the Philippines ($5 million bounty).

Other Arrests of Jemaah Islamiyah Members

As of March 2004, 240 suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah, including many of its leaders, had been arrested.

In April 2003, 18 suspected members of Jemaah Islamiyah were arrested. They included Abu Rusdan, the successor to Abu Bakar Bashir. In a raid in which the suspects were apprehended police also found dozens of detonators and 40 kilograms of fertilizer like that used to make the Bali bombs.

In 2003, a Jemaah Islamiyah cell was broken up in Pakistan that reportedly had been set up to train future leaders of the group. Among those involved were Bashir’s son Abdul Rahim and Hambali’s younger brother, Rusman Gunawan.

Fate of Jemaah Islamiyah

By 2004, Jemaah Islamiyah was regarded as largely in disarray and incapable of carrying out a coordinated attack like it did in Bali. At that time it was believed to have about 2,000 members but had been infiltrated by informers and was running short of funds. The public had lost sympathy with the group after the Marriot hotel and Australia embassy attack because most of the victims were innocent Indonesians.

Many still regarded Jemaah Islamiyah as dangerous. Even with all the arrests Jemaah Islamiyah, some believe, has stayed alive. A former member told the Washington Post, “At the same time that the police arrest them, they always find someone to replace them. Even if the entire Jemaah Islamiyah membership is wiped out, other groups will arise and do the same thing.”

In June 2003, AP reportedly: “Hurt by arrests of key leaders, the regional Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah is reorganizing and intelligence officials expect it to resume operations. Citing an alleged June 21 report from military chief Gen. Narciso Abaya to Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, AP said US officials told their Filipino counterparts that JI "is not capable of large-scale operations" due to the disruption in its senior leadership following the arrests. "The JI is currently reorganizing around remaining sub-regional teams, re-establishing communications, and operations will resume (in) the midterm," AP quoted a copy of the report which it claimed to have seen earlier this week.

Shefali Rekhi wrote in the Strait Times in 2004: “JI is in ruins now,' says Nasir Abbas, one of the outfit's regional leaders who is trying to help the Indonesian police in their investigations. 'Anybody who was a JI member is no longer claiming to be a JI member now. 'Azahari and Noordin are the most dangerous, but even they don't say they are part of JI now. 'There is no management, no administration any more,' he told The Straits Times. According to Ms Jones, one of the most important divisions of JI is perhaps being led by Abu Dujanah, who was the secretary of the JI central command. After the Marriott bombing, Azahari and Noordin reported to him, she said. Reports say Abu Dujanah was the director of a key JI institution known as the Al Ikhlas Institution Foundation at Gading in Solo, Central Java. It runs an Islamic university called Mahad Ali al-Ikhlas. Previously, he helped hide Singapore JI members accused of planning attacks on United States interests in the city state. Others tracking the network believe Zulkarnaen or Aris Sumarsono, JI's top military trainer from Solo and a key member of the outfit's central command, could be the outfit's new leader, which puts them on the most-wanted list as well. But JI apart, there are other concerns in the region [Source:Shefali Rekhi, Strait Times, October 19, 2004]

Decline of Jemaah Islamijayh: Does the Same Fate Await Al-Qaida?

John Hudson of Atlanticwire wrote: “Counter-terrorism experts said Al Qaeda wouldn't vanish in a sweeping final act but in a gradual, winnowing decline. A new report out of Southeast Asia gives a sketch of what that looks like. Reporting from Jakarta, the Associated Press writes that Al Qaeda's foothold in Southeast Asia appears to be gone. The evidence stems from an interrogation video of Umar Patek, a top Indonesian terrorist suspect affiliated with Jemaah Islamijayh who was captured in Abbottabad, Pakistan, shortly after Osama bin Laden was killed there. Initially, Patek's arrest in bin Laden's sanctuary city signaled that Al Qaeda's ties to Asia remain strong. But interrogators soon concluded that Patek had gone to Abbottabad to rekindle his relationship with the terror network, waiting for months until a years-old contact eventually reached out to him. [Source: John Hudson, Atlanticwire, February 2, 2012~]

"Relying on such an old contact suggests Patek had been unable to forge any new jihadist ties in recent years," writes the AP's Niniek Karmini. "It was a far cry from the early 2000s, when Jemaah Islamiyah was believed to have received funding and operational support from al-Qaida, and some JI leaders were believed to have close relations with al-Qaida leaders from their days in militant training camps in Afghanistan." ~

“In some important ways, the development follows the script of a 2008 RAND Corporation study titled "How Terrorist Groups End." The project analyzed the spectrum of terrorist groups from 1968 to 2006, tracking their rise and fall. It found a group's downfall was typically gradual and led by police and intelligence work. "The evidence since 1968 indicates that terrorist groups rarely cease to exist as a result of winning or losing a military campaign. Rather, most groups end because of operations carried out by local police or intelligence agencies or because they join the political process." ~

“The emphasis on local police efforts as opposed to sweeping military campaigns is precisely what experts, speaking with the AP, attribute to the decline of Al Qaeda-linked military groups in Southeast Asia. "They can't stand their ground," said Sidney Jones, a terrorism analyst at the International Crisis Group. "The Indonesian police in particular is managing the threat very well." That should please the Rand researchers who urged the U.S. to step up "cooperation with foreign police and intelligence agencies" when the study was written.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2014

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