Jemaah Islamiah meaning “Islamic Congregation”, frequently abbreviated JI), is a Southeast Asian militant Islamist organization dedicated to the establishment of a Daulah Islamiyah (regional Islamic caliphate) in Southeast Asia incorporating Indonesia, Malaysia, the southern Philippines, Singapore and Brunei. JI was added to the United Nations 1267 Committee’s list of terrorist organizations linked to al-Qaeda or the Taliban on 25 October 2002 under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
JI has its roots in Darul Islam (DI, meaning “House of Islam”), a radical Islamist/anti-colonialist movement in Indonesia in the 1940s. The JI was formally founded on January 1, 1993, by JI leaders, Abu Bakar Bashir and Abdullah Sungkar while hiding in Malaysia from the persecution of the Suharto government. After the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998, both men returned to Indonesia where JI gained a terrorist edge when one of its founders, the late Abdullah Sungkar, established contact with Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.
JI’s violent operations began during the communal conflicts in Maluku and Poso. It shifted its attention to targeting US and Western interests in Indonesia and the wider Southeast Asian region since the start of the US-led war on terror. JI’s terror plans in Southeast Asia were exposed when its plot to set off several bombs in Singapore was foiled by the local authorities.
Recruiting, training, indoctrination, financial and operational links between the JI and other militant groups, such as al-Qaeda, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Misuari Renegade/Breakaway Group (MRG/MBG) and the Philippine Rajah Sulaiman movement (RSM) have existed for many years, and continue to this day.
Prior to the first Bali bombing, there was underestimation to the threat Jemaah Islamiah posed Jemaah Islamiah is known to have killed hundreds of civilians in the first Bali car bombing on October 12, 2002. In the attack, suicide bombers killed 202 people and wounded many in two blasts. The first, smaller blast by a suicide bomber using a backpack, killed a small number of people in a nightclub and drove the survivors into the street, where the vast majority were killed by a massive fertilizer/fuel oil bomb concealed in a parked van. After this attack, the U.S. State Department designated Jemaah Islamiah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Jemaah Islamiah is also strongly suspected of carrying out the 2003 JW Marriott hotel bombing in Kuningan, Jakarta, the 2004 Australian embassy bombing in Jakarta, the 2005 Bali terrorist bombing and the 2009 JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotel bombings. The Bali and JW Marriott attacks showed that JI did not rule out attacking the same target more than once. The JI also has been directly and indirectly involved in dozens of bombings in the southern Philippines, usually in league with the ASG.
However, most of Jemaah Islamiah prominent figures such as Hambali, Abu Dujana, Azahari Husin, Noordin Top and Dulmatin have either been captured or killed, mostly by Indonesian anti-terrorist squad, Detachment 88. While several of its former leaders, including Malaysian jihadist and Afghanistan War veteran Nasir Abbas, have renounced violence and even assisted the Indonesian and Malaysian governments in the war on terrorism. Nasir Abbas was Noordin Top’s former superior.