Saturday, January 31, 2009

Jemaah Islamiyah Adopts the Hezbollah Model. Part II


by Zachary Abuza

2nd  part of 3


Jemaah Islamiyah used or co-opted many of these charities between 1999 and 2001, during a period of sectarian bloodletting in the Molucca Islands between Jemaah Islamiyah's paramilitaries and Christian and Hindu citizens. Dewan Dakwah Islam Indonesia, a hard-line Islamist offshoot of the Muhammadiyah, the national Islamic organization, established KOMPAK in late 1998 ostensibly to provide relief assistance to people in conflict areas, such as Kalimantan, the Moluccas, and Central Sulawesi. It immediately partnered with the Saudi International Islamic Relief Organization although it recently suffered a setback when, on August 3, 2006, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Indonesian branch of the International Islamic Relief Organization, along with the Philippine branch and a Saudi director of the International Islamic Relief Organization, for financing terrorism, including Al-Qaeda. The United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee acted in concert although it did not designate the Indonesian branch of the International Islamic Relief Organization as a financier of terrorism until November 9, 2006.[26] While KOMPAK did not engage in conflict directly, its aid won support for Jemaah Islamiyah and its paramilitary organizations such as Laskar Jundullah and Laskar Mujahidin.

Of the thirteen regional directors of KOMPAK, at least three were top-level Jemaah Islamiyah operatives.[27] KOMPAK, however, only came to the assistance of Muslim communities, which it worked to radicalize. KOMPAK officials, while acknowledging that they operate in regions struck by sectarian conflict such as Aceh, Poso, the Moluccas, and Bangunan Beton Sumatra, assert they alleviate the crises and provide necessary relief. They deny any links to jihad activities.[28] In 2003, Indonesian forces arrested several KOMPAK leaders for their involvement in sectarian violence and terrorism; several others went underground.

As with other jihadist organizations and corollary charities in North Africa, Iraq, Chechnya, and elsewhere, KOMPAK's support is not entirely indigenous. It serves as the executing agency of many Saudi and Persian Gulf funds, including from Al-Haramain and the International Islamic Relief Organization.

Aris Munandar, a top KOMPAK and Al-Haramain official, was a key financial conduit between Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah. Agus Dwikarna not only served as head of KOMPAK for South Sulawesi but also was the regional branch officer for the International Islamic Relief Organization and treasurer of Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia. Munandar, who was a leading member of Jemaah Islamiyah, used KOMPAK to support both the sectarian bloodletting in the Moluccas and Sulawesi and Al-Qaeda operatives' training of Jemaah Islamiyah members.[29] KOMPAK also produced a number of jihadi videos for fundraising and recruitment purposes.

The Indonesian crackdown broke KOMPAK into disparate cells, but the organization did not cease its commitment to radicalization. One such splinter group, KOMPAK in Ambon, conducted the October 2005 Bali II bombings. Indonesian prosecutors believe that one mid-level Jemaah Islamiyah operative, Abdullah Sonata, received 11 million rupiah (US$15,000) and 100,000 Saudi riyals ($36,500) in 2004 from a Saudi named Syeikh Abu Muhammad to finance militant operations and to send Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists to Mindanao. Other KOMPAK members acquired weaponry with which to instigate a new wave of sectarian bloodletting in Central Sulawesi and the Moluccas.[30] Dulmatin, who is one of Jemaah Islamiyah's leading operatives and has been in hiding in the southern Philippines since early 2004, ordered other KOMPAK members to dispatch suicide bombers to the Philippines. Abdullah Sonata asserted that he sent ten although only four got through.[31]

It is clear, therefore, that the KOMPAK network, funded by Saudi charities, helped develop Jemaah Islamiyah. It also illustrates clearly that terrorist organizations can be created from social networks.

Hambali, Jemaah Islamiyah's top operative in Malaysia, established other charities including Pertubahan el Hassan, as conduits for funds to both Jemaah Islamiyah, its paramilitaries in the Moluccas, and the Medical Emergency Relief Charity. Initially, these charities served as ancillary organizations used to assist with jihadist activities. Over the last two years, however, Jemaah Islamiyah has begun to focus far more on charities. While the Indonesian military has made inroads tracking down terrorist leaders, the Indonesian government has been more willing to tolerate Jemaah Islamiyah charities in the belief that it can wean Jemaah Islamiyah leaders from violence and that it is better to have them involved in overt and nonviolent activities. Jakarta has, therefore, been unwilling to enforce United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee or U.S. Department of the Treasury designations, which make it illegal to raise funds for or donate to any proscribed individual or organization. The Indonesian government's strategy appears to mirror that of the Lebanese government's strategy with regard to Hezbollah. Beirut and many Western powers long tolerated Hezbollah, convinced that incorporating it into the Lebanese government might moderate the group. However, in Lebanon, such accommodation backfired precisely because the charities were only one aspect of a much broader strategy that included immutable commitment to jihad.


Tsunami and Earthquake

The December 2004 tsunami and the May 2006 earthquake in central Java, both massive humanitarian crises, provide a window into just how Jemaah Islamiyah and its charities operate to further Islamist agendas.

On December 26, 2004, an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra caused a tsunami which killed more than 165,000 Indonesians and displaced half a million others. Jakarta, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster, sought to tap Jemaah Islamiyah's social service network. On January 4, 2005, Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia dispatched the first group of seventy-seven volunteers to Aceh from their Yogyakarta based headquarters.[32] Among them was a top Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia official who was a suspect in the October 12, 2002 Bali blast that killed 202 people.[33] Not all Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia personnel were engaged explicitly in humanitarian work; the group indicated that their primary goal was to provide "spiritual guidance" to victims, assist in the reconstruction of mosques, and guard against proselytizing by non-Muslim relief agencies. Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia's non-humanitarian agenda led the Indonesian Air Force to expel nineteen Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia members from Aceh on January 11, 2005.[34]

Abdurrahman's Laskar Mujahidin also used the tsunami to propel itself to new relevance. Founded in January 2000 by Abdurrahman and Hambali, both of whom had experience fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, the group fielded approximately 500 armed combatants in the Moluccas who were equipped with high-speed motor boats, which they used to attack remote Christian and Hindu communities. After the tsunami, they established four base camps in Aceh including one outside the airport, adjacent to the camps of other domestic and international relief organizations, beneath a sign that read, "Islamic Law Enforcement." Unlike Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia, which was more concerned with providing "spiritual guidance" and restoring "infrastructure in places of religious duties," the Laskar Mujahidin was deeply involved in relief work, including the distribution of aid and especially the burial of corpses.[35] Though the organization is vehemently anti-American, it gave cautious backing to the presence of U.S. and Australian troops.[36] It was clear, however, that their lobbying did persuade the government to call for the early departure of foreign troops.

Joining Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia and Laskar Mujahidin was the Medical Emergency Relief Charity (MERC), an Indonesian executor agency for Saudi funding.[37] Established on August 14, 1999, amidst sectarian fighting, MERC now has twelve offices in Indonesia, concentrated in the regions most directly affected by sectarian violence. In 2000-01, MERC produced two well-publicized jihadi videos for fundraising purposes.[38] While MERC was never directly implicated in supporting Laskar Jundullah and Laskar Mujahidin paramilitary operations to the degree that KOMPAK was, its one-sided approach to the Moluccas conflict, as well as the actions of some individual members, raised suspicions. There is some evidence that MERC received funding from the Indonesian branch of the Saudi-funded International Islamic Relief Organization.[39] MERC operations abroad, in particular in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Afghanistan, and Chechnya, have also raised concerns about it being a conduit for terrorist funding. MERC sent a team of four doctors and other staff to Iraq in 2003. In 2004, U.S. forces killed one MERC employee, an ambulance driver, in a firefight. The group's website stated that they operate in the tribal areas of Pakistan with the support and permission of the Taliban. Other Islamist organizations such as the Islamic Defenders Front and Hizb ut-Tahrir, though not directly connected to Jemaah Islamiyah, have also become active in Aceh in the wake of the tsunami. Both groups have engaged in sectarian violence.[40]

The Islamist charities flocked to Aceh for three reasons. The first was to garner good press and media attention, providing a needed makeover for groups associated with terrorism and sectarian violence while simultaneously highlighting the secular government's failure. Second, the Islamist charities sought to counter any Western influence.[41] Hence, Din Syamsudin, the head of the quasi-official Indonesian Ulema Council and president of the second largest Muslim organization in the country, Muhammadiyah, who has subsequently acted as a fundraiser for Hamas, warned:

All nongovernmental organizations, either domestic or international ... This is a reminder. Do not do this [proselytize] in this kind of situation. The Muslim community will not remain quiet. This is a clear statement, and it is serious.[42]

Paranoia about Western influence has become a prime motivator for Islamist groups in the Middle East. Prior to the rise of Al-Qaeda, for example, Saudi clergy preached that the Muslim world was subject to a Western "cultural attack" and "intellectual attack." In 1981, the World Muslim League, a Saudi NGO, published a book entitled, The Means of Combating the Intellectual Attack on the Muslim World, which highlighted a theme developed by 'Abdullah 'Azzam, a professor at King 'Abd al-'Aziz University in Jeddah and mentor to Osama bin Laden.[43] Defense against a "cultural NATO" is a theme that Iranian hardliners have also recently adapted.[44] Hence, almost two years after the tsunami, Ba'asyir declared that "naked women are more dangerous than bombs" in his salvo about spiritual pollution and Western culture and values degrading Islam from within.[45]

Third, these groups saw the disaster as an opportunity to proselytize. Several groups in addition to Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia indicated that their primary goal was to provide "spiritual guidance" to victims, ensure that Islamic law was being followed, and to assist in the reconstruction of mosques. With 400,000 refugees and mosques at the center of rural community relief efforts, the potential for influence was great.[46]

The cynicism of the Islamist parties grated on local political movements. While Aceh is nearly 100 percent Muslim, the Acehenese secessionist movement, the Free Aceh Movement known by its acronym GAM (Gerakan Aceh Meredeka), urged the international community to force the Islamist groups to leave in apparent frustration with the government's unwillingness to do so:

We therefore call on the international community to demand that the FPI [Front Pembela Islam] and Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia leave Acheh … The FPI and Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia are not welcome in Acheh and have never been supported by the Achenese people, nor has their presence been requested. The FPI has been involved in sectarian killings in Maluku and Central Sulawesi and illegal attacks against non-Muslims and others in Java and elsewhere. Their intervention in Aceh is therefore counterproductive.[47]

Tsunami relief efforts provided a template for subsequent operations, most notably in the May 27, 2006 earthquake in central Java. The magnitude 6.2 earthquake killed more than 6,000 people, injured 78,000, and left up to 1.5 million homeless. The United Nations' World Food Program moved quickly into central Java and chose Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia as one of eight partner organizations to deliver ninety-five tons of food aid. The Australian government immediately protested Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia's contract,[48] but World Food Program spokesman Barry Came said, "We don't pick groups to distribute aid based on their religious or political beliefs. We choose based on the ability to deliver, and so far they've performed up to standard. We have no complaints."[49] He backed down, however, under international pressure.[50] Both Ba'asyir and Abdurrahman had been proscribed under U.N. Security Council 1267 Committee lists as specially designated terrorist financiers, and Ba'asyir, just released from prison, was reportedly planning to deliver the World Food Program aid personally.[51]

The episode highlights a major problem facing the West when combating Islamism: The United Nations and international agencies either refuse to perform due diligence or use moral equivalency to justify support for Islamist organizations. Not only do such organizations receive Saudi support as they pursue sectarian radicalization, but too often they also indirectly receive subsidies from Western taxpayers who fund international organizations.

Zachary Abuza                  


No comments:

Post a Comment