Risk Intel Report

Reports of Bombs in Small Packages Lead to Warnings in Jakarta

While there is agreement across the board that a significant and immediate terrorist threat to western interests in Jakarta remains, the opinions of some analysts on the strategic threat posed by Jemaah Islamiya (JI) is beginning to diverge from official government positions. On May 10, 2005, the US State Department issued a continuance on its Travel Warning (Advisory) for Indonesia . Then on May 26, 2005, the US Embassy in Jakarta closed due to a pressing threat (WAR Report). Within days, many western embassies followed suit (WAR Report). Most reports at the time identified two key individuals behind the suspected plot: Azhari Husin and Noordin Muhammad Top, who, as a team, specialize in making car- and truck-bombs and recruiting suicide attackers. By late June, authorities rounded up dozens of JI sympathizers and suspected operatives (WAR Report) and Malaysia had even detained Husin’s wife. Many reports at the time suggested that Husin and Top were lying low on the outskirts of Jakarta, preparing for an imminent attack against western tourist, business, or diplomatic targets. However, in light of the London subway bombing in July 2005, analysts are re-examining earlier reports from known sympathizers. The New York Times article re-interviewed a local Indonesian private security analyst who highlighted an earlier statement that the most recent threat to Indonesia had centered a smaller scale operation utilizing perhaps two or three kilograms (4.4 to 6.6 pounds) of explosives packed into plastic tubes, according to Indonesian intelligence officials. The article describes the most recent threat modality as “secrete explosives in small plastic bags, and that two or three would be tied together to increase the impact.” This distinction marks a shift away from the more spectacular vehicle bombing attacks attributed to JI since 2001. The distinction may further underline a split between Husin and Top, who remain at large, and the remaining JI leadership, which, Sidney Jones (Indonesia Project Director for International Crisis Group), asserts has disavowed its alliance with al-Qaeda in an attempt to stave off the damage caused by the arrest of over 200 senior group leaders in recent months. If Husin and Top have left the JI umbrella, then perhaps resources are more difficult for them to secure, and certainly Indonesian authorities have increased pressure on them, thereby limiting their mobility. Given these factors, a smaller scale, coordinated attack focused on western targets or an Indonesian urban area transportation network may look suspiciously like the London attack but will likely have evolved to the same MO for different reasons. Nonetheless, with Husin and Top still unaccounted for, western interests remain significantly threatened by jihadists in Jakarta. Fortunately, the government has taken a major step to reduce threats by other groups in the outer provinces. On July 17, 2005, exiled leaders of the Free Aceh Movement, (GAM) and the Indonesian government agreed in Finland to sign a peace pact, ending a 29-year insurgency on the northern end of the island of Sumatra. Both sides initialed the pact, which opens up the local political infrastructure to currently outlawed political parties so that GAM candidates may run in mayoral elections as early as April 2006. Federal troops and police forces will be reduced to 13,000 and 10,000 respectively; this lessens Jakarta’s presence by over one-half. The central government hopes that this move will subvert the separatist elements of GAM, thereby providing a viable alternative to the complete independence granted to East Timor in 1999 both for Aceh and the rebels in Papua. Both sides hope this very public agreement will persuade even the most obstinate militant and military outposts to halt their operations to ensure

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