Sidney Jones on Jemaah Islamiyah

Jan 5th, 2006, in News, by

Sidney Jones speaks on Jemaah Islamiyah.

The well-known commentator on Indonesian extremist groups, Sidney Jones, the project director for the International Crisis Group in Jakarta, gave a speech some time back in Singapore at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies on “New Developments within Jemaah Islamiyah”, the terrrorist group behind various bombings in Bali and Jakarta. A video of her speech can be viewed here (there’s some chance you’ll die waiting for it to load).

Her speech is based on a paper submitted to the Australian Journal of International Affairs called “The changing nature of Jemaah Islamiyah”. A summary follows here:

Sidney Jones

Of all the Islamic terrorist organisations known to be operating in Southeast Asia, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is probably the best known. But when attempting to combat it and its violence against civilians, security forces need to be aware of its current nature. This article seeks to show from the history of JI that it is a constantly changing, complex and highly flexible organisation; that while its roots lie deep in Indonesian history, it recruits from and adapts to the other countries in which it is operative. Consequently, JI seems to be a different organisation depending on the country from which it is viewed. The article shows that security forces need to be fully aware of both its Protean character and its history if effective measures are to be taken against it.


Bomb blasts at the Sari Club and Paddy’s Bar in Kuta which killed 200 people in 2002 provoked a major crackdown on the group by the Indonesian government. The consequent arrests, and hounding of the group, have forced changes in leadership, structure, and training.

Administrative structure

JI is thought to be divided into four regional groups, or mantiqi:

  1. Mantiqi I – mainland Malaysia and Singapore (for fund-raising)
  2. Mantiqi II – Java, Sumatra, other islands of Indonesia (jihad)
  3. Mantiqi III – Philippines, Borneo, Sulawesi (for training)
  4. Mantiqi IV – Australia (for fund-raising)

Mantiqi I provided most of the leadership until about 2003 and these men were internationalist oriented, close to al-Qaeda. Mantiqi I is now on its knees and key cadres of JI are being drawn from Mantiqi II who are more Indonesia focused, less interested in the middle east, want to establish sharia state in Indonesia. This may lead to fewer attacks on Western targets in Indonesia.

Ultimate objectives

The Indonesian branch of JI is an offshoot of the Darul Islam movement in the fifties. The Darul Islam rebellion in west Java eventually gained followers throughout Java and into Sumatra and Sulawesi. It sought to establish an Islamic state. It was militarily crushed in the fifties and its remnants were violent opponents of the Suharto regime which gained it new recruits especially in the seventies when Abdullah Sungkar, the co-founder with Abu Bakar Ba’asyir of the al-Mukmin pesantren (Muslim boarding school), in Ngruki, near Solo, Central Java, joined the movement.

Indonesian Terrorist Recruits

Sungkar and Ba’asyir were charged with subversion in the eighties and fled to Malaysia. There they arranged for new recruits from Indonesia to be sent to training camps on the Pakistani-Afghan border. On their return many stayed in Malaysia. Many new recruits were gained in Singapore and Malaysia through the eighties. Many of these men later remembered, under police questioning, that the focus of the group was always the establishment of an Islamic state in Indonesia, not a regional Islamic state.

Wan Min bin Wan Mat, a Malaysian who joined JI in 1993, explained to Indonesian police:

I don’t know why Indonesia was chosen as the focus of jihad. But I think there was a possibility that an Islamic state was going to be set up in Indonesia first, because all the leaders of JI were from Indonesia. Setting up an Islamic state in Indonesia had also been part of the struggle of the JI leaders from way back. And then, the size of the population in Indonesia and the number of Islamic organisations there may have been other considerations, because if you could obtain the support, the impact would be much greater there. If Indonesia became an Islamic state, it would be an impetus for jihad elsewhere

Domino theory anyone?

By the late 1990’s much of the JI rank and file were Malaysian and many did not understand why Indonesia should be the focus. Then, talk of a wider Islamic state may have been designed for their ears.

Links to al-Qaeda

1997-2002 was the highpoint of cooperation between JI and al-Qaeda. This mainly came from the Mantiqi I command while the Mantiqi II people were often mainly focused on political struggles within Indonesia.

The bombings in Bali and Jakarta were classic al-Qaeda type, internationally focused operations, part of the Bin Laden view of the Christian-Zionist conspiracy, part of his call to attack American interests all over the world. These attacks caused much division and splitting within JI in Indonesia.

For the group in Indonesia opposed to such attacks they were a waste of resources if the goal was an Islamic state in Indonesia a la Darul Islam.

Further, attacks on western civilians in places where Muslims were not being attacked themselves, such as Bali and Jakarta, were sinful and against the spirit of jihad. Here we see the repudiation of the internationalist view of al-Qaeda and a clear focus on just Indonesia.

Moreover, the Mantiqi I command has been weakened by arrests and killings by security forces.

JI’s regional relationships

JI around 2000-01 was quite a broadly regional group with representatives from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Australia. It had staff in Karachi and Kandahar. But, initially, when setting up training camps in the southern Philippines JI members from Indonesia and elsewhere showed little interest in the Mindanao fight. They trained and went home.

Since 2001 there has been much more foreign involvement in fighting in the Philippines. There is as yet no evidence that JI are actively involved in Thailand but a network exists that could easily be activated.


JI constantly changes and adapts. It has deep roots in Indonesia going back to the Darul Islam rebellion. It finds new recruits easily. It is under much pressure, divided, and short of cash.

No doubt its activities will be the cause of many more reports on these pages in the future. It’s going to be a long fight.

13 Comments on “Sidney Jones on Jemaah Islamiyah”

  1. Lizzy says:

    How does the JI view the state that controls the territory in which it resides?

  2. Esa says:

    What the reason why Indonesia is chosen as a basic area for JI in South East Asia region because everybody knows that most of the leaders in Indonesia are not strong enough to fight against the terorists. Why ? This is a stupid answer. Because of the religion.
    Look my friend, in every bombing cases, majority of the people in Indonesia kept silent to these bombings, even the religion leaders except the lips services from one or two of the religion leader. It means that these bombing cases are 100% agreed by them, even if the victims mostly came from the ordinary people. They do not care about this. They only care about when the religion state will be built in Indonesia.
    The second reason is all of the gengster is protected by the devotee of JI. These people are spread around the country from Aceh up to Maluku. Because Indonesia has no rights in emergency case, like ISA in Malysia and Singapore, so there is nothing to do with these people.
    The last question is when the terorist will disappear from Indonesia, the answer is NEVER !!!!!!!!!

  3. Fanglong says:

    So, has Noordin M. Top been really arrested on June 14th ?

  4. Tom Susan says:

    Ms. Sidney Jones,

    I highly appreciate your works on JI. You are the real expert on it. Somehow, could you please inform me whether or not JI has a clear political agenda to deal with?

    Thanks for your kindness.

    Best Regards,

    Manila- Philippines

  5. JI Indonesia are placed between fact and imaging side (antara ada dan tiada), some of moslem appreciate them but some another of is reject and hate it. I think so, it is should Indonesian government understanding the phenomenon for advanced indonesian peoples that mostly are moslem.

  6. Kylie says:

    Ok I’m currently studying terrorism at university and am doing a assignment focused on JI. I need to gather findings for a Rationale. Could you possible tell me more about the reasons why they wish to promote their course or the Philosophy behind JI.

    I really admire such passion you have in bringing these activities to the forefront of ppl minds.

  7. susan says:

    just visit website above and you will find a lot of articles on JI.

    You may also visit ISEAS and IDSS of Singapore. they provide good job on JI. But if you want to know JI from the point of view of USA, you can visit TerroristWatch.
    Please ask Mr. Google or Miss Yahoo or Mas Avant Browse.

    good luck.

  8. tania says:

    Dear Ms. Jones,

    Hi, I’m new to this site. Anyway, is there any time you will be in Jakarta again? I have your number, but I’m afraid it’s your old number, and I’m worried that you may not be in Jakarta yet by this time. Really looking forward to speak to you soon. Thank you.


  9. Yusoff Cee says:

    Dear Ms. Jones,

    Is there any evidence that genuine Zakat donations collected in Malaysia may be re-directed to Indonesia as a source of funding for JI? As you will know, Malaysia has legislation allowing local Muslim employees to donate 100% of their income tax as Zakat (a religous tithe) through multiple collecting organisations. This is allowed as a 100% tax-deduction. In other words, instead of paying income tax to the federal government, they may re-direct over RM700 ( US$200M+) per year into the hands of locally appointed Amils who in turn may distribute this money to multiple NGO’s and a myriad of Islamic societies at their own discretion. Most of these recipient ‘charities’ are unregistered and also un-audited. Case in point is the so-called registered charity Jemaah Islah Malaysia (JIM). They are heavy recipients of re-directed Zakat funding, normally aimed at providing assistance to the poor. As an organisation consisting of well-heeled, middle-class and mostly western(UK)-educated individuals, their remit to ‘make Malaysia an Islamic/ Shariya state by 2020’ eerily mirrors many of the doctrines of JI. Both Noordin Top and his bomb-making partner-in-crime Husein were educated in England at the same time as the Malaysian youth movement was active in british universities as a precursor to the birth of JIM . As such, they would have met many like-minded individuals in that environment. Is JIM a genuine organisation for the distribution of funds and support to poor Muslims in Malaysia? Or is it a vehicle for wannabe politicians and middle-class ‘armchair Jihadists’ sitting comfortably in KL who want to get involved in the birth of an Islamic state in asia without actually getting their hands dirty? Do you know of any proven funding links between JIM and JI?

  10. says:

    Peace be upon you…

    Dear mrs….
    I want to ask one question of you….so, what do you think about the Bomb today in Jakarta ?
    Who the human do that ?
    my president say.. the terrorist is enemy to kill him…
    I am so scary to hear that… because, i love My President..
    SBY is my Hero. He is Good Father in my Country. Indonesia.
    And He is a Good moeslim and I think, the terror Bomb is very wrong Work.
    say : die Konyol… (mati konyol)

  11. seniwati says:

    To Ms Sidney Jones

    I am a student in Malaysia, but I am from Indonesia.
    My writing about “strategy of Indonesian Government to counter terrorism in Indonesia”.
    Could you give your email for interview about my writing?
    Thank you very much



    University of North Malaysia

  12. Zul says:

    Dear Ms Sydney,

    I am student at Malaysia National University currently conducting a research on Jamaah Islamiyah from historical perspective. I would appreciate if I can get your email add or contact details to discuss further regarding this topic in which you are the subject matter expert.



  13. Chris says:

    Hi Zul,

    If you want to contact Sidney Jones, please see the link to her contact details at the bottom of this webpage.

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