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Jihadi Footprints in Aceh

Jihadi Footprints in Aceh

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Published by Dr. PANKAJ JHA

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Published by: Dr. PANKAJ JHA on Dec 23, 2010
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 Jihadi Footprints in Aceh
The menace of terrorism in the extended southern Asian region has proliferated beyond the borders. The need has therefore emerged for coordinated efforts in this regard. The successful efforts made by thecountries like Philippines and Indonesia and the constructive support of the neighbouring countries have led to decimation of terrorist leaders. Thecomplete annihilation of terrorists has not yet been achieved and instead new splinter groups have emerged. The exiting terror groups as well asnew splinter groups are in the process of consolidating themselves and finding a safe haven for regrouping. The arrests of few terrorists in thenorthern most tip of Aceh( autonomous region of Indonesia which is very close to Andaman and Nicobar Islands), proclaiming to be cadres of asplinter organisation called ‘Al Qaeda of Aceh’ has also raised concernsabout the security of Andaman and Nicobar Island group which stationsthe Joint Command of Indian Armed forces. Also, the role of majosouthern Asian terror groups like Pan Islamic organisations like Lashkar eTaiba and Jemaah Islamiyah is expanding which is a matter of concern inthe extended south Asian region. The counter-terrorism priorities should be charted out and the efforts integrated between India and Indonesia, sothat the jihadists near India’s maritime borders should not inflict any damage on strategic and commercial interests of India.
Usually with regard toterrorism in southeast Asia, majorityof strategic commentators andcounter-terrorism experts in Indiahave been either been ignorant orhave not been seeing it as a majorchallenge to their security .Thepreeminent Pakistani fixation withregard to terrorism has left themunaware when the David ColemanHeadley saga appeared in thenational and internationalnewspapers and now the revelationabout links of an Omani national in26/11 Mumbai terror attack havefoxed the agencies. It showcased thechanging
modus operandi
andcharacteristics of the international jihad
. So, the compulsive orconfigured approach towardsPakistani terror networksgerminating only from across theborder needs to be reformattedbecause the international terrorismhas been changing shape and thearea of operations in terms ologistics and increasing cooperationbetween terrorist groups. While inthe case of India it has not been ableto influence the internationalcommunity to take stock of thesituation and force Pakistan tocomply with the Indian demands of prosecuting the Mumbai Blastsaccused, it is still to be seen how farIndia caters to the changedorientation of the major Pakistaniterror groups and comprehend theirfuture modus operandi in the future.While the area of operations of themajor terror groups in Pakistan hasbeen expanding from that of India’snortheast to parts of Bangladesh tothat of Maldives, the next stop whichmight emerge is Aceh. Aceh beingthe autonomous province oIndonesia
having a largeconservative Muslim population (24million) which had been denouncingthe radical overtones of religion isbeing caught in the consolidation of the splinter terror groups oSoutheast Asia, the fluctuatingsupport base of Jemaah Islamiyahbut increasing religious radicalism insociety.1
 The splinter terrororganisations of Southeast Asia havebeen trying to set up a new base inAceh which is barely 70 nauticalmiles from the Indira point, thesouthernmost tip of Andaman andNicobar Island group. The possiblereverberations in the north-westerntip of Aceh should be a matter of concern for the Indian armed forcesand decision making authorities. Thecongregation in the jungles of Aceh,a video footage of which is availablein YouTube
shows that the issue orthe congregation is not stagemanaged for the media but is a verycalculated move on the part of theterror groups in southeast Asia to gettogether on a rather idyllic islandand forge better ties with the terrorgroups in the larger southern Asianregion. Even Indonesian anti-terroragencies have verified the formationof new group known as ‘Al Qaeda of Aceh’
. Though, it was stated thatthe terror groups were planningattacks in the eve of the USPresidents Obamas visit toIndonesia in March 2010, now hasbeen postponed ,but it send alarmingsignals to the counter-terrorismagencies. The Indonesian policearrested 16 suspected militants inFebruary-March, 2010. SinceFebruary 2010 the Densus 88 haskilled six militants and arrestedabout 30 suspected terrorist havinglinks with the Al Qaeda of Aceh andwere found to be in possession of  jihad material. It is suspected thatthe police have also captured AbuMusa(who was involved in AustralianEmbassy bombing in 2004),established the training camp in jungles of Aceh. Also the police hasstated that people trained in Acehwere behind last year Jakarta twinhotel blasts
Status of Terrorist Groups in Southeast Asia
In the last couple of years the terrorgroups in Southeast Asia, moreparticularly that in Indonesia andPhilippines are facing crunch ocadres and dwindling strength of leaders owing to arrest and killing bythe security forces. Of course theenigmatic leaders like Abu Dujanaand Zarkasih, the military head andideological head are under detentionin an unknown location in Indonesia. The killing of the iconic leaders likeNoordin Top in September 2009 andeven lately the killing of Dulmatinhave left JI with virtually noleadership at the top level barringUmar Patek who is on the run afterthe Bali Bomb blast in 2002.Most of the top leadership of JI have beenAfghan war veterans and havereceived religious orientation as wellas jihad training in Pakistan andAfghanistan. The dwindling cadresand the eroding /compromisedobjective of JI ,in terms of politicalstruggle to gain legitimacy has left anumber of splinter groups led bythese erstwhile leaders of JI to formspecial mass strike force to counterthe menace of the Indonesiancounter-terrorism force which isregistering enormous success latelyin terms of arrests and killing of thetop most cadres . So at this junctureit would be important to take anaudit of the cadre strength of theterrorist groups in Southeast Asia.
 Active Organizations
Jemaah Islamiyah and AbuSayyaf are stated to be activeorganizations which havecadre strength of 1200 and200 respectively. Though thetop leadership of both theorganizations has either beenarrested or has been killed by2
Anti- Terror Forces. The latestkilling of Noordin Top, whowas known as Osama of Asiawas biggest achievement of Indonesian Anti -TerrorAttachment (ATA) in 2009.Among the JI members UmarPatek is at large and US hasdeclared a reward of US$ 1million on him. Dulmatin waskilled by ATA unit in March2010 and was the biggestachievement in the antiterrorist operations in thecountry.
 The Emir and Military Head of  JI namely Zarkasih and AbuDujana are under governmentcustody and facing trials inIndonesia. Their whereaboutsare kept secret.
 The Moro Islamic LiberationFront which is insurgent outfitseeking autonomous provincecomprising of 1000 villages insouth of Philippines had beennegotiating with PhilippinesGovernment but the talksfailed. Malaysia and 16 othercountries led interlocutors leftwhen government launchedoffensive against theinsurgent group. Now Iran istrying to mediate talks.
Abu Sayyaf has been facingfactional fighting after thekilling of their leader Kaddafy Janjalini and Abu Suleiman in2008.But even till date itpossesses maritime attackcapabilities and expertise inguerilla warfare. Has beenfound suspect in kidnap oItalian Bishop in 2008.
 The coordination andcooperation between theterror groups in SoutheastAsia has been well known andis well documented by anumber of anti-terrorismexperts in southeast Asia.
Dormant Organizations
Within the region organizationlike Kumpualan MujahidinMalaysia (KMM) located inMalaysia has become dormantand as per the roughestimates their strength atany point of time is not morethan 40-50 cadres. Their areaof operation s mostly NorthernMalaysia.
New Radical Groups
Lashkar Mujahidin (strength500), Lashkar Jundullah(strength 400) and Lashkar jihad (strength 300) havegrown stronger from thesectarian violence in Malukuand Sulawesi province oIndonesia.
 There are few militantorganizations committed toimplementing
andimposing hard-line Islamistvalues on society like theIslamic Youth movement (GPI)and the Defenders of Islam(FPI) in Indonesia. In Acehespecially the northern partsof Aceh near Banda Aceh, FPIhas become very active.
 There is another group whichacts as a buffer betweenmilitants and political partiesand their area of operations ismainly campuses and schools.For Example, IndonesianCommittee for solidarity of theIslamic world (KISDI),Association of Inter Campus,(HAMMAS) and fringeorganizations like IndonesiaMuslim Students Action Front(KAMMI) and Muhammadiyahstudents association (IMM).3

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