Senior Jemaah Islamiyah commander captured in Indonesia

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Click the photo to view a presentation on Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda’s affiliate in Southeast Asia. The presentation was created by Nick Grace and Bill Roggio in January 2008. AFP Photo.

Indonesia’s elite counterterrorism police unit, Detachment 88, recently captured the most wanted member of an al Qaeda-linked terror group that was plotting attacks in the Southeast Asian country. Two of his aides were also captured and another was killed.

Detachment 88 captured Jemaah Islamiyah commander Abdullah Sunata, an aide named Sogir, and another unnamed aide during a raid in Katen in Central Java, the Jakarta Globe reported. The fourth terrorist, Yuli Karseno, was killed in a shootout.

The terror cell was plotting to bomb the Danish Embassy in Jakarta as well as conduct a series of Mumbai-style attacks in the capital during Indonesia’s Independence Day ceremony on Aug. 17. The president and foreign dignitaries were to be targeted during the planned assault. The cell also targeted three policemen during shooting in Central Java.

“We are sure that they chose the police as the target as revenge for a terror raid in Aceh and they wanted to bomb the Danish Embassy because of the Prophet Mohammad’s caricature fiasco,” Tito Karnavian, the chief of Detachment 88, told the Jakarta Globe, referring to the controversy over cartoons printed in Europe.

Sunata is a long-time Jemaah operative who is closely linked to the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf Group, a terrorist outfit based in the Philippines. Sunata has been described by Jamestown as “a bridge between the two organizations” and “a key figure in dispatching suicide bombers.” He also is linked to the the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The Indonesian president’s spokesman described Sunata as “a key person that connected the national terrorist network with international ones.”

Sunata was involved in the recruitment of Indonesian jihadis and helped to send them to camps in the Philippines. He also served as the head of KOMPAK, or Komite Penanggulangan Krisis, Jemaah Islamiyah’s charitable front group. Sunata received several donations from a Saudi named Abu Mohammad. In 2006, Sunata was arrested for harboring Mohammed Noordeen Top, the slain Jemaah Islamiyah leader, and spent three years in jail before being released in 2009 for good behavior.

After being released from prison, Sunata immediately linked up with his terrorist network and began plotting attacks against the government. He organized a group of jihadists in Aceh that took on the name “al Qaeda in Aceh.” More than 100 jiahdists are thought to have joined the cell. So far, Indonesian police have killed 13 members of al Qaeda in Aceh and detained 60 more.

Sogir is a bomb maker and the planner of the bomb plot against the Danish embassy. He is said to have been a student of Azahari Husin, a master Jemaah Islamiyah bomb maker who was involved with major attacks in Indonesia from 2002-2005. Azahari, a Malaysian national, was killed by police in 2005.

Detachment 88 has been effective in dismantling Jemaah Islamiyah’s military arm. Over the past year, Top and Dumaltin, the group’s top two military commanders, have been killed.

But Jemaah Islamiyah’s spiritual leadership remains intact, while much of the network has gone dormant. Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, served just two years in prison for his involvement in the deadly 2002 Bali nightclub bombing.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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3 Comments

  • Infidel4LIFE says:

    wat boggles my mind is, a place like Aceh, where US military provided all kinds of aid after the tsunami, these people would HATE us. Wats the sense? In Bosnia, Kosovo the same thing. They have turned up in Iraq and even afghanistan. We save thier lives..then they want to kill us..?? We better just get it done in a-stan, the people hate us, they don’t trust thier corrupt, inept gov. The police are thieves, and it would take GENERATIONS. NO WAY. Kill as many as we can, declare “victory” and get out. We don’t have the blood or treasure. I hope Petraeus lets them fight and do wat soldiers are trained to do. Godspeed to all…

  • kp says:

    wat boggles my mind is, a place like Aceh, where US military provided all kinds of aid after the tsunami, these people would HATE us. Wats the sense? In Bosnia, Kosovo the same thing. They have turned up in Iraq and even afghanistan.

    “Wat”? The whole population of Aceh or Kosovo? I don’t think so.

    Careful with the over-generalizations. There are plenty of hearts and minds to be won with the work we did in Kosovo (I suspect more of them hate the Serbs rather more) and in Aceh. A very, very small number of the population end up becoming fighters. If you forget that then you will never win them over (or even get them to not support the Islamist … it’s fine if they dislike the US but don’t support the Islamists).

    Imagine when your local Islamist rabble rouser comes through and tells them how terrible the US are. Certainly some of them are going to think back to the time these “evil American” guys came over and got us food, water and shelter. It makes the Islamists task all the more difficult.

    Oh, and Russian tried the kill ’em all approach in Afghanistan. It didn’t work and annoyed the locals leading them to the Taliban as the solution. We need a more nuanced solution.

  • TimSln says:

    The top military leadership of Jemaah Islamiyah continues to get hammered. This is good news.
    Bill, I noticed the link to the killing of Noordin Mohammed Top is incorrect.

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