In a sign that the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terrorist network and its offshoot Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) remain security threats, the United States has imposed sanctions on two men involved in recruiting, training and financing terrorists in Indonesia.
The US Treasury has barred Americans and US firms from dealing with JAT financier Said Ahmad Sungkar, 51, and senior JAT leader Afif Abdul Majid, 58.
The latest action comes amid concerns that militants could be planning small-scale guerilla attacks in Indonesian cities, and as police investigate sporadic yet targeted attacks on policemen and pawnshops in recent weeks.
“The threats posed by terrorist groups such as JI and JAT remain significant,” Treasury Undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen was quoted as saying on the US Treasury website on Wednesday.
“We will continue to take action to protect the international financial system from illicit activity tied to these groups,” he added.
JAT seeks to establish an Islamic state and was founded in 2008 by JI spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir, who is serving a 15-year jail term for organising a terrorist training camp in Aceh.
Its members, who include suicide bombers behind attacks on places of worship and policemen, have robbed banks to buy weapons and materials for bombs.
Security officials say the group continues to pose a threat in the region, and has links with militants operating in Poso, Central Sulawesi.
The US State Department designated JAT as a terror outfit in February last year, while the Treasury sanctioned three of its leaders – acting Emir Mochammad Achwan, spokesman Son Hadi Muhadjir, and recruiter and fund- raiser Abdul Rosyid Ridho Ba’asyir.
On Wednesday, the Treasury said Sungkar, who had been JI’s media chief, raised funds and recruited for JAT this year, and had extended logistics support such as fake documents to help JI operatives evade capture.
As for Afif, it said he had overseen JAT fighters since 2008, headed its Central Java branch and helped coordinate regional JAT leaders’ activities last year.
It added that Afif headed efforts to train weapons experts and hackers, and supported terror networks outside JAT as well, including donating US$2,000 (S$2,500) to the Aceh camp.
Observers were, however, surprised by the two latest names.
Mr Muh Taufiqurrohman of the Abdurrahman Wahid Centre told The Straits Times that although JAT continues to pose a serious security threat to the region, the two men do not.
He said that while Sungkar is known to instigate violence and had sent his men to attack churches in Central Java in 2011, he would not encourage them to kill policemen or carry out bomb attacks. And although Afif had been preaching armed jihad, he said it was not to be done in peaceful places like Indonesia, Mr Taufiqurrohman added.
As for the new sanctions, they would not affect fund-raising activities as JAT members “work from within Indonesia and are alleged to have close relationships with the security apparatus”, Mr Taufiqurrohman added.
But Mr Noor Huda Ismail of the Institute for International Peace Building says the duo are still involved in JAT.
“This will boost their reputation inside the network and serve as a wake-up call that the US is still the enemy, not the police.”
Publishe in the Strait Times on 20 September 2013 | Zakir Hussain