JI 'crippled' by arrest of commander

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 June, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 June, 2007, 12:00am

Regional terror group on the run after capture of Abu Dujana, say experts

Indonesian police say they have crippled Jemaah Islamiah (JI) with the capture of Abu Dujana, the military commander and strategist of the terror group responsible for a string of terrorist attacks including the devastating 2002 Bali bombings.

JI is believed to be in a disarray following the loss of its formidable leader, anti-terror sources say.

'JI has been weakened. It's members are on the run,' an anti-terror officer involved in the operation said.

The Sunday Morning Post reported police believed they had captured Dujana but his capture was not officially acknowledged until yesterday.

'The person that was arrested on Saturday, Yusron Mahmudi, has many aliases and one of them is Abu Dujana,' police spokesman Sisno Adiwinoto said, adding that he was known under at least six names.

Anti-terror sources and analysts were quick to caution the arrest did not amount to a death knell for JI.

'JI still has cells on Java as the group has splintered. But for now it is difficult for them to carry out their activities,' the anti-terror officer added.

John Harrison, research manager of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said: 'It's a big break for Indonesian anti-terror police but it's not the death knell for JI.

'JI clearly has some base of popular support for it to have survived for so long. Its ideology and belief system has to be challenged and defeated to a point where you are not going to get people to support it anymore. This is not going to happen quickly.'

Dr Harrison estimates the loss of Dujana will disrupt JI's operations for three to six months. 'With members on the run, JI will not have the bandwidth to get money, to plan and launch attacks,' he said.

Dujana, 37, allegedly directed almost every major bomb attack in the country. 'He planned the bombing strategies and directed Noordin Top and [the late] Dr Azahari Husin,' police spokesman Mr Sisno said.

Malaysians Noordin and Azahari, an expert bomb-maker, played key roles in the 2002 Bali bombings in which 11 Hong Kong residents died, the 2003 J.W. Marriott blast and the bombing outside the Australian embassy in 2004.

Azahari was killed by police in 2005, while Noordin remains the most wanted terrorist in Asia.

Dujana was arrested in Banyumas in Central Java. Seven more terror suspects were also arrested.

Police described Dujana as 'dangerous' and highly skilled in handling firearms and military tactics. He trained at the Afghanistan Mujahedeen Military Academy, from where he graduated in 1991.

'He is also known to be an expert bomb-maker,' Mr Sisno said.

During his stay in Afghanistan he also fought against the Russians. Fluent in English and Arabic, his language proficiency caught the ear of al-Qaeda leaders and he became close to them.

'He has personally met Osama bin Laden,' Mr Sisno said.

Anti-terror officers are now investigating Dujana's ties with al-Qaeda.

'It is possible Dujana was the intermediary between JI and al-Qaeda,' the anti-terror source said.

According to Dr Harrison, JI's ties with al-Qaeda are based on personal connections.

'And once the person with al-Qaeda ties is arrested, then the connection is gone,' he said. 'However, Noordin has ties with al-Qaeda. His vision is also very close to the one espoused by al-Qaeda. We don't know who else within JI who has ties with al-Qaeda.'

Anti-terror police are now interrogating Dujana for clues about Noordin and the remaining militants.

Still, with Dujana's arrest, Noordin has lost a crucial protector.