Farouk Arnaz, Jakarta – The Indonesian police said members of shadowy terror network Jemaah Islamiyah are regrouping, following the arrest of a number of suspected militants in several cities in recent weeks.
Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, was responsible for the October 2002 Bali bombings that killed over 200 people of mostly Australian citizens. The group was also blamed for the bombing at the Australian Embassy In Jakarta in 2004 and the twin hotel bombings in Jakarta in 2009.
Not much was heard of the group until the police's elite counter-terror squad Detachment 88 made several arrests in Bekasi, Surabaya, Sidoarjo, Serang and Tasikmalaya since April.
Police linked the suspects with Para Wijayanto, the alleged leader of JI who has been in police custody since June last year. His arrest in Bekasi ended a high-profile manhunt since 2003.
Investigation revealed that Para managed to recruit new members and form a "more modern JI" on a solid financial base, police said at that time.
On Sunday, an officer involved in the investigation said another leading figure in JI has emerged. His identity was given only by initial H for the sake of the ongoing investigation.
The man was instrumental in rebuilding JI, which has been declared a "forbidden corporation" by a Jakarta court ruling in 2008, meaning that its members can be prosecuted even if they haven't committed to any attack.
He was once arrested for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, according to the officer, who asked to remain anonymous.
"At that time, H was arrested for harboring Ali Ghufron and Imam Samudera who were on the run," the officer told the Jakarta Globe.
Ali and Imam were later convicted of masterminding the attack and they were executed by the firing squad on Nusakambangan prison island, Central Java, in November 2008.
H has served a jail term for the crime but remains at large, according the officer, who added that a manhunt has been launched.
Crackdown on JI
Police arrested a suspected JI member identified as Abdullah during an operation in Surabaya, East Java, in April.
He was apprehended while attempting to deliver firearms to West Java through a delivery service agent in the East Java capital.
Abdullah illegally bought the firearms and ammunitions from a military personnel in Malang, East Java, for Rp 200 million ($14,000), police have said. The fact that the group had enough fund for arms purchase has raised concern about its resurgence.
It was later found that several members of the group run a delivery service firm in Surabaya to get income, among other sources.
In the wake of the Bali bombings, JI was widely known as a regional network with members and sympathizers in several other countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Thailand. Their aim is to establish a caliphate in Southeast Asia.
Several days after the Surabaya operation, police arrested three more suspects in Serang, the capital of Banten.
Last month, three more suspects were captured during separate operations in Tasikmalaya, West Java. Police seized machetes, camping gear and hiking equipment from the suspects, who allegedly planned to conduct paramilitary training.
Abdullah reportedly had attempted to send the firearms to the Tasikmalaya group. "The cell in Tasikmalaya is tasked with training new recruits," the officer said.
Most recently, a man with suspected link to JI was also put in custody during a raid in Cirebon, West Java. He is identified by initial M.
"According to the preliminary investigation, M has recruited new members and led them to pledge allegiance to JI," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Awi Setiyono said last week.
A source in the National Police said the group doesn't necessarily carry the name Jemaah Islamiyah, but continues following its ideology and operation methods. Several members are given a chance to wage jihad in Syria and Iraq.
"This group has link to leading JI figures who were involved in the 2002 Bali bombings. However, a number of suspects captured in recent operations in Surabaya, Sidoarjo, Serang and Tasikmalaya don't belong to JI's original structure," the officer said.
"This group cannot be called JI, or 'new JI', but it does accept former JI members and adopts JI strategies," he said.