Jemaah Islamiyah (J.I.) is a militant
Islamist group active in several Southeast Asian countries that’s
seeking to establish a Muslim fundamentalist state in the region.
Anti-terror authorities struck a blow against Jemaah Islamiyah
(“Islamic Organization” in Arabic) when they arrested its
operational chief, Nurjaman Riduan Ismuddin, a.k.a Hambali, in
Thailand in mid-August. J.I. is alleged to have attacked or plotted
against U.S. and Western targets in Indonesia, Singapore, and the
Have authorities pursued
Indonesian officials have jailed
several members of the group for allegedly planning the October 12,
2002, bombing that killed 202 people at a Bali nightclub. J.I. is
also suspected in the August 5, 2003, car bombing of the J.W.
Marriott hotel in Jakarta that killed 12. Before the Bali bombing,
Indonesian authorities had not aggressively investigated the group,
though Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines had cracked down on
it. After the Bali attack, the United States—which suspects the
group of having ties to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda
network—designated Jemaah Islamiyah a foreign terrorist
Why hadn’t the United
States designated Jemaah Islamiyah a foreign terrorist organization
before the Bali bombing?
Because of a reluctance to
anger Indonesian public sentiment. While Singapore and Malaysia
would have supported adding the group to Washington’s list earlier,
the United States had been trying to secure Indonesia’s cooperation
on the war on terror without alienating its Muslim political parties
or undermining its moderate president, Megawati Sukarnoputri. The
Bali bombing spurred Indonesia to acknowledge the extent of its
terrorism problem, and the U.S. designation followed. Listing J.I.
as a foreign terrorist organization restricts the group’s finances
and its members’ travel.
Where does Jemaah Islamiyah
Across Southeast Asia, including Indonesia,
Malaysia, Singapore, and possibly the Philippines and Thailand. Weak
central authority, lax or corrupt law enforcement, and open maritime
borders in some of these countries ease J.I.’s ability to operate
throughout the region.
When was Jemaah Islamiyah
The name Jemaah Islamiyah dates to the late
1970s, but experts aren’t certain if the name referred to a formal
organization or an informal gathering of like-minded Muslim
radicals—or a government label for Islamist malcontents. The group
has its roots in Darul Islam, a violent radical movement that
advocated the establishment of Islamic law in Indonesia, the world’s
most populous Muslim country and also home to Christians, Hindus,
and adherents of other faiths. Darul Islam sprang up as the country
emerged from Dutch colonial rule in the late 1940s, and it continued
to resist the postcolonial Indonesian republic, which it saw as too
How big is Jemaah
We don’t know. U.S. Secretary of State
Colin Powell described it as “an extremist group with cells
operating throughout Southeast Asia.” The State Department has cited
2001 press reports estimating that Jemaah Islamiyah had some 200
members in Malaysia alone.