Analysis: Jakarta attack may show evolution of Islamist terror group

Jakarta, Indonesia – Twin bomb blasts at two luxury hotels popular with foreign businessmen in Indonesia’s capital have renewed fears of terrorist attacks after a four-year lull in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.

The explosions present recently reelected President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono with a new set of security challenges and are evidence that medium-term success in disrupting terrorist networks can’t guarantee security since small numbers of motivated operatives are extremely difficult to completely eliminate.

Indonesia has been one of the great antiterror success stories of the past five years as it has hunted down and disrupted – often with US and Australian help – the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network, an Islamist group that has murdered hundreds and has in the past had ties to Al Qaeda. The group carried out five mass casualty attacks in Indonesia between 2000 and 2005 and another attack in the Philippines. Now, though, violent splinter factions may be hoping to revitalize JI with more sophisticated attacks, analysts say.

“It is too early to tell for sure,” says Noor Huda Ismail, executive director of the Institute for International Peacebuilding and a onetime student at an Islamic boarding school run by Abu Bakar Bashir, the Sunni cleric who serves as the JI’s spiritual leader. “But the pattern of attack, target, and method suggests the violent faction [of JI].”


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