Sunday, October 11, 2009

Noordin’s death doesn’t end terrorist presence in Indonesia

JAKARTA: The death of terrorist leader Noordin Mohammed Top is a major blow to Islamist militancy in Indonesia, but analysts say he leaves behind a capable and fluid network bent on further attacks.
The death of the Malaysian Noordin, 41, in a dramatic raid Thursday on a village house in Central Java ends a six-year manhunt for the man blamed for a series of deadly suicide attacks including the July double bombing of Jakarta’s JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels.

But analysts warn that the network Noordin built, itself a more extremist offshoot of the radical group Jemaah Islamiah (JI), did not die when he and three other militants were killed in the police raid.When you put a key leader out of commission, a key organizer, a key planner, it sets a network back. But it doesn’t necessarily mean these people don’t exist anymore.

But with more than half a dozen Noordin operatives killed and a similar number captured since the July 17 hotel attacks, which killed seven, it’s not unreasonable to think they [Noordin’s followers] are, if not going to ground, on the move. Noordin, a former accountant who became one of Southeast Asia’s most-wanted men, was renowned for a combination of cunning, tactical skill and a charismatic flair for recruiting acolytes and men willing to give their lives in the cause of holy war.

Those skills are said to have seen him mount a string of attacks including a 2003 attack on the same Marriott that killed 12 people, a 2004 car bombing that killed 10 outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta and a 2005 triple suicide bombing that killed 20 on Bali island. A Philippine ambassador to Indonesia was nearly killed in one of these attacks.

The danger is that those same skills to build bombs and recruit fresh fighters have been spread through Noordin’s network during his years on the run.Indonesian police seem keenly aware of this. They have said their main focus now is hunting down Noordin followers, including Syaifudin Jaelani, a recruitment expert, and Mohamed Syahrir, a former technician with national airline Garuda Indonesia.

Survivors, however, will be able to draw on the same network of JI-linked schools and families that allowed Noordin to evade capture for years, in spite of a deep ideological split between him and JI’s majority over the use of spectacular attacks.

There is also a risk that, despite the seizure of weapons and explosives in Thursday’s and earlier raids, Noordin’s followers have stashed away necessary materials to mount further attacks, Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst Carl Ungerer said.

Noordin’s greatest legacy, however, could be as someone seen as a martyr and inspiration for others interested in mounting terror attacks.

A 10-member cell arrested in the South Sumatran city of Palembang last year for plotting attacks against Westerners and non-Muslims was one such group inspired by Noordin’s message.

The Muslim Daily website linked to radical Jemaah Islamiah cleric Abu Bakar Bashir —who was jailed and later acquitted over a “sinister conspiracy” in the 2002 Bali attacks that killed more than 200 people—has since Friday morning carried gruesome pictures of the muddy, battered bodies of Noordin and the three militants killed with him.
By Aubrey Belford Agence France-Presse

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