North Sumatra, Indonesia – Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the al-Qaeda-affiliated group that masterminded the Bali bombings in 2002, has discovered a brand new supply of earnings – a community of charity donation packing containers stationed throughout Indonesia that had been solely found after one of many group’s leaders was arrested together with 23 different members late final yr.
The group’s use of the seemingly innocuous packing containers, that are clustered outdoors minimarkets throughout the archipelago and normally utilized by charities, could possibly be extra vital than the arrest of JI chief Zulkarnaen, also referred to as Aris Sumarsono, who had been on the run for 18 years, analysts mentioned.
He is considered probably the most senior members of JI and was instrumental within the assaults on Bali, which left greater than 200 folks lifeless.
“The real major blow for JI isn’t the arrest of Zulkarnaen but the discovery of JI’s source of income through both illegal and legal ‘charity work’”, Noor Huda Ismail, a former member of the hardline group Darul Islam who has since based the Institute for International Peace Building and runs deradicalisation programmes and workshops throughout Indonesia, advised Al Jazeera.
“The importance of the arrest is uncovering the active JI cells who have been hibernating ‘peacefully’ using legitimate covers such as foundations, charity organisations and NGOs,” he mentioned.
National Police Spokesperson Inspector General Argo Yuwono advised the media in December that police had discovered greater than 20,000 donation packing containers in raids throughout 12 areas in Indonesia, together with Jakarta, Lampung, North Sumatra, Yogyakarta, East Java and Maluku.
According to the police, donation packing containers had been additionally positioned in different places along with minimarkets, together with petrol stations, eating places, cafes and retailers raking in hundreds of thousands of Indonesian rupiah daily. The scale of the operation appeared to have elevated considerably over the previous few years, the authorities mentioned.
The packing containers had been registered, legally, to the Abdurrachman bin Auf (ABA) Charity Foundation however that was not the place the cash was going.
ABA was a entrance for JI, and a number of the basis’s members have additionally been arrested, together with Fitria Sanjaya, who was detained after giving details about the alms packing containers and the diversion of funds to Jemaah Islamiyah.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, former JI operative Arif Budi Setyawan, who has since written a e-book that warns of the risks of radicalisation, says the invention of the donation packing containers marks a definite escalation within the group’s fundraising efforts. “They had this kind of system of donations before, but not as many as now and not in public places like minimarkets,” he mentioned. “No doubt this has astonished many people, but as a former member of JI, I’m just surprised by the sheer numbers [of donations boxes].”
There is concept that Jemaah Islamiyah carried out the brand new public donation system after failing to lift sufficient funds from its personal members, who’re usually anticipated to contribute their very own cash within the type of alms to the group.
According to Ali Imron, who was jailed for all times in 2003 for his position within the Bali bombings, JI beforehand relied on high-level donors moderately than soliciting funds from the general public. “That method didn’t exist before. We had our own money. For jihad in Ambon and Poso, we had financial help from lots of sources and for the Bali bombing we had money directly from Osama bin Laden,” he mentioned.
The police say the funds from the packing containers had been used to purchase weapons and explosives, in addition to to supply coaching for JI operatives in Syria. The group has been out of the limelight for practically 10 years, however is estimated to have about 6,000 energetic cells, in response to the police’s Yuwono.
Several weeks earlier than Zulkarnaen was apprehended, one other senior member of Jemaah Islamiyah, Upik Lawanga, was additionally arrested. At his dwelling, police found an underground bunker containing weapons and bomb-making tools, prompting fears that the group was planning a brand new wave of assaults.
In addition to the latest arrests, 82-year-old Abu Bakar Bashir, who was the so-called “spiritual leader” of JI on the time of the Bali assaults, is ready to be launched from jail on Friday after serving two-thirds of a 15-year sentence for supporting non secular coaching camps in Indonesia’s Aceh Province.
In 2014, he pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the previous chief of the ISIL (ISIS) group, who was killed in Syria in October 2019.
Ismail says the invention of the funding community will in all probability be solely a short lived setback to the group’s ambitions.
“The discovery of JI’s source of funding will weaken the organisation temporarily before it can bounce back and rejuvenate itself through its massive network in the country,” he mentioned.
“I think JI will metamorphose from using the tactic of ‘bullets’ to ‘ballots’ by pushing its extremist ideology through politics. Sadly, the threat of terrorism will not be rooted out completely in Indonesia. What we can do is to slow down the process of growth and contain its tentacles.”
The former member Setyawan agreed that JI, which was banned in Indonesia in 2008 after a sustained crackdown by counterterrorism forces, ought to as soon as once more be considered with concern.
“In the short term, we should not fear JI, but perhaps in the long term we need to remain cautious,” he mentioned. “In particular, we need to examine the relationship between raising funds through thousands of donation boxes in minimarkets with the discovery of homemade weapons in bunkers.”