‘Lone Wolf’ or JI?: Confusion of Jemaah Islamiyah after the attack in Malaysia | Politics News

Medan, Indonesia – Malaysia has been the target of a rare deadly attack after a man armed with a machete hit a police station in the southern state of Johor, killing two police officers and injuring a third.

Initially, Malaysian police said they suspected Friday’s incident was linked to the hardline Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) group and was likely an attempt to steal weapons. Speaking to the media following the attack in the town of Ulu Tiram, Inspector General of Police Razarudin Husain said police raided the suspect’s house and discovered “paraphernalia related to JI”.

Five members of his family were arrested, including the suspect’s 62-year-old father, who police said was a “known JI member.” Two other people were also arrested, who were at the police station filing a complaint at the time of the attack, early Friday morning.

But on Saturday, Malaysian Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail appeared to backtrack on the JI connection, describing the attacker as a “lone wolf” who was “driven by certain motivations based on his own understanding because he rarely related to others.”

Former JI members in Indonesia told Al Jazeera that an attack by the group on Malaysian soil seemed unlikely.

Speaking from prison in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, where he is serving a life sentence for his role in the 2002 JI Bali bombing, which killed more than 200 people, Ali Imron told Al Jazeera that JI’s profile in Malaysia It didn’t seem to fit with the attack on the police station. .

“There has never been any JI member in Malaysia who has agreed to commit acts of violence like this,” he said. “Before the Bali attack, there were attacks in Malaysia, but they were not carried out by JI but by Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia (KMM).”

KMM, a hardline group linked to JI, carried out small-scale attacks in Malaysia in the early 2000s.

Rueben Dass, a senior analyst at Singapore’s S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted that JI had never organized attacks in Malaysia before.

“Malaysia was always considered an economic region for JI, not the focus of attacks,” he told Al Jazeera. “Malaysian authorities were always alert and aware, particularly after KMM was activated. “They have been vigilant and carried out a wave of arrests in the early 2000s of JI members.”

Since then, he said, JI had kept a low profile.

“Seeing them reappear is a little surprising,” he added.

Indonesia, which suffered a series of JI attacks in the late 1990s and early 2000s – including church attacks on Christmas Eve 2000, the Bali bombings and the 2003 attack on the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta – has also largely succeeded in taking drastic measures.

In 2003, with funding and training from the United States and Australia, he created the Special Anti-Terrorist Detachment 88 (Densus 88) and subsequently created a National Anti-Terrorist Agency (BNPT).

Indonesian authorities have also pioneered a number of deradicalization programs, using former members of hardline groups, including JI, with recidivism rates of around 11 percent, according to the Institute for Conflict Policy Analysis, a Jakarta-based think tank.

History of the JI

JI was founded by Indonesian Muslim scholar Abu Bakar Bashir and Abdullah Sungkar in 1993, with the mission of establishing an Islamic caliphate throughout Southeast Asia.

The group has historically been linked to Al Qaeda, from which it reportedly received funding and training in the 1990s and early 2000s. It has had members in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and the Philippines.

JI was officially banned in Indonesia in 2007, leading to the group’s fragmentation. Some members focused on dakwah or proselytizing, while others continued to plan violent attacks. Arrests have continued across the region and members have been accused of stockpiling weapons and bomb-making equipment.

According to open source data, between 2021 and 2023, of 610 people arrested in Indonesia, 42 percent were JI and 39 percent belonged to other hardline groups, including Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) and other pro-state groups. Islamic.

Most senior JI officials have been executed, shot dead in police raids or imprisoned.

The 2002 attack in Bali, which killed more than 200 people, shocked Southeast Asia (File: AP)

Both Bashir and Sungkar lived in Malaysia in the 1980s and 1990s, along with high-ranking members such as Indonesian Encep Nurjaman (alias Hambali) and Malaysians Noordin Mohammed Top and Azahari Husin. Ali Ghufron (aka Mukhlas), Amrozi bin Nurhasyim and Imam Samudra, the masterminds of the Bali bombing, also spent time in Malaysia.

Hambali was arrested in Thailand in 2003 and is currently awaiting trial in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, while Samudra, Amrozi and Mukhlas were executed in 2008. The two Malaysians were gunned down in separate police raids in Indonesia in 2005 and 2009. .

Before his death, Noordin ran the Luqmanul Hakiem Islamic boarding school in Malaysia, founded by Bashir and Sungkar and located in Ulu Tiram, near the home of the suspect in Friday’s attack.

Malaysia closed the school in 2002 amid suspicions that it was being used to recruit people for JI.

Attack style

While the profile of the suspect’s father and proximity to Luqmanul Hakiem could have suggested a connection to JI, Imron cautioned against such an analysis.

“If the son followed his father, there is no way he would have committed this act, so there is a strong possibility that he was inspired by ISIS (ISIL),” Imron said, suggesting that Malaysian authorities had “reached to that conclusion.” “

Umar Patek, who was released from prison in 2022 after serving 11 years of a 20-year sentence for mixing some of the chemicals used in the Bali attack, told Al Jazeera he “did not believe” the attacker was a JI member. and he agreed that the attack seemed to have the characteristics of another group.

“I have a lot of doubts,” he said. “I don’t understand it, especially that a violent attack took place. In my opinion, it is impossible that he was JI, but it is possible that he was ISIS.”

The style of the attack has increased skepticism, as the attack on a police station and Muslim police officers is inconsistent with JI attacks in Indonesia. There, it has been ISIL-inspired hardline groups, including JAD, that have attacked police stations, considering them representative of the state.

Soldiers walking through the jungle in Indonesia.  They are armed.  There is dense foliage around.
Indonesia and Malaysia cracked down on the group after a series of deadly attacks in the early 2000s (File: Suparta/AFP)

Judith Jacob, Asia director at intelligence and risk analysis firm Torchlight, told Al Jazeera that the most unusual aspect of Friday’s attack was the location.

“While Malaysian militants have been key figures in JI and Philippines-based groups, there is little evidence of sophisticated plots specifically targeting Malaysia in recent years,” he said.

However, while Malaysia and Indonesia have not seen anything close to the levels of violence of the early 2000s, attacks have not been completely eradicated, and a more low-level, opportunistic pattern of violence is emerging.

“The attack in Malaysia remains within the purview of regional Islamist militant groups; that is, it is a relatively unsophisticated attack,” Jacob said.

“Indonesian groups, in particular, have been largely unable to carry out the large-scale attacks or coordinated bombings that were a hallmark of JI in its heyday in the 2000s. Militant groups in the Philippines are more capable, but they have also not been able to carry out sophisticated bombing beyond the southern islands.”

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