Jemaah Islamiyah infiltrating Indonesian religious, civic institutions: Senior counterterror official
JAKARTA: Members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) regional terror network have been infiltrating religious and civic institutions across Indonesia in a bid to spread their ideology, a top official at the country’s Counterterrorism Agency warned.
Police last week arrested three people suspected of raising funds for the Al-Qaeda linked terror group. Among them was Ahmad Zain An-Naja, a member of the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), the country’s influential semi-official body of Muslim religious scholars. Ahmad Zain sat on the council’s fatwa commission.
The other two were Farid Okbah, a preacher and Anung Al-Hamat, a university lecturer.
“The arrests show that Jemaah Islamiyah has infiltrated every aspect of people’s lives,” Mr Ahmad Nurwakhid, the National Counterterrorism Agency’s director of terrorism prevention told CNA on Tuesday (Nov 23).
“It is very possible that they have also infiltrated other religious organisations, even sports organisations and bike clubs.”
Mr Nurwakhid said that since 2010, law enforcers have arrested 18 civil servants, eight police officers and five military officials with links to JI. “They are very good at hiding their true identity,” he said.
JI had been responsible for some of Indonesia’s most deadly terror attacks, including the 2002 Bali Bombings which killed 202 people.
The last attack which was directly authorised by the JI dated back to 2007. Since then, Mr Nurwakhid noted that the terrorist group focused more on recruiting members, raising funds and spreading its ideology in secret.
The strategy change came during the leadership of Para Wijayanto who led the terror network from 2008 until the time he was arrested in 2019. Wijayanto is now serving a seven-year prison sentence.
“They used to focus on launching attacks but since Para Wijayanto they changed it to spreading their ideology, recruiting more people, expanding their support base and raising funds,” he said, adding that aside from these seemingly benign activities, JI has also been hard at work in amassing weapons and training recruits.
“They are still very dangerous and very capable of launching an attack any time they please.”
Mr Nurwakhid said the MUI member, Ahmad Zain sits on the board of a charitable foundation named Abdurrahman Bin Auf, which police said is a front used by JI to raise funds.
MUI said that it has suspended Ahmad Zain from active duty and promised to be more stringent in recruiting future members. The council also maintained that Ahmad Zain’s alleged ties with JI were his “personal affair” and not connected to his role in the MUI.
Also on the board was Farid, the preacher, who police said was Wijayanto’s personal advisor and had long ties with the terror network.
Farid is also the founder and chairman of a little-known political party called Indonesian People’s Propagation Party. But police have yet to determine whether the party is also linked to the terror network.
As for the lecturer, he is the founder of a legal aid organisation providing financial and legal support to arrested JI members.