JI Strategy & Tactics

Apr 25th, 2006, in News, by

Jemaah Islamiyah, JI, is believed to have a two-pronged strategy in its war in Indonesia, that is, it seeks to attack western interests, as well as stoke the fires of sectarian conflict among Indonesians.

Foreign Interests

A report by Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper in Japan of April 17 contended that last year Noordin Mohammed Top, one of JI’s leaders, instructed his subordinates to conduct reconnaissance on the vast Paiton Energy coal-fired thermal power plant, 150 kilometers southeast of Surabaya, in east Java.

The power plant, which is owned and operated by a consortium of Japanese, British and U.S. companies, provides much of the electricity for Surabaya, Indonesia’s second largest city and the province of East Java. Two men, arrested for their roles in harbouring the JI fugitive, revealed that the plot was abandoned simply because JI did not have the material resources to mount an attack on such a large, heavily guarded target.

Those same sources also suggest that Noordin ordered operatives to find Japanese-related targets in Indonesia. A mushroom-processing plant in Surabaya was surveyed as it was thought to be run by a Japanese. However, the factory was removed from the target list as the JI member found that the factory is managed by an Indonesian of Chinese descent, the report claims.

Sectarian Conflict

A second report, from Detiknews of April 12, stated that a suicide bombing had been planned for the town of Poso in central Sulawesi, scene of sectarian bloodshed over the last 6 years. The report stated that a man carrying a backpack would likely carry out the operation.

Noordin and his compatriot Dr. Azahari bin Husin, who was killed in October 2005, were unhappy with JI’s rate of attacks. Major truck bomb operations were conducted on roughly an annual basis (for instance, Bali in October 2002, the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in August 2003, and the Australian Embassy in September 2004). Beginning with last October’s triple bombings in Bali, perpetrated by three suicide bombers with backpacks, Azahari and Noordin began a wave of smaller bombings in a faster tempo. When police raided Azahari’s East Java safe-house, they found some 30 bombs being prepared.

Central Sulawesi, like Maluku, has been the site of an intensified push by JI and affiliated groups to foment a new wave of sectarian bloodletting. In the immediate post-Suharto period, JI members established two paramilitary organizations to engage in sectarian conflicts. Not only did these laskars, or militias, give JI an important pool of indoctrinated militants, but they served to discredit the state as it was seen to not come to the defense of the Muslim community.

JI Structure & Strategy

JI is a much more horizontal organization, loosely organized around increasingly autonomous cells. Command and control is weaker than in the past. More than 300 JI members have been arrested throughout Southeast Asia, more than 200 of which have been in Indonesia””roughly one-tenth of the estimated size of JI in Indonesia. Members of JI are encouraged to establish their own organizations (Kompak in Ambon, for example) with varying degrees of covertness that simply have a more local geographical range of operations and activities. That does not mean, however, that they are completely autonomous or that they are working at odds against JI’s goals.

Moreover, the two strategies “targeting Western interests and engaging in sectarian conflict” are not mutually exclusive, but rather mutually reinforcing. What is interesting is that on May 2, 2005, Indonesian police arrested three suspects wanted in conjunction with the August 2003 bombing of the JW Marriott in Jakarta in a small village outside of Poso, Sulawesi. All three, as well as a fourth who escaped, were involved in not only the sectarian bloodletting in Ambon in 1999-2000, but also the April 24 attacks in Mamasa, Sulawesi.

Therefore, there is a clear connection between the same people engaged in both international jihad and local jihad. They are simply different tactics employed at different times. JI has demonstrated an ability to learn and react to changing security environments. Sectarian violence attracts less attention from the security forces””especially from the United States and Australia. Refocusing on sectarian violence by Noordin’s cells, however, taps into a broader strategy of fomenting sectarian conflict that JI has long used to recruit and indoctrinate a new generation of jihadists.


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