Tactical analyst Sean Noonan discusses the arrest of Umar Patek and explains why the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group has been marginalized in recent years.
Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.
Today, Sutanto, the head of Indonesia’s national intelligence service, confirmed that Umar Patek — a wanted Jemaah Islamiyah militant and planner of the 2002 Bali bombings — was arrested by Pakistani security services on Jan. 25 in Pakistan.
Umar Patek, who is also known as Umar Arab and various other aliases, has been wanted since 2002 for his involvement in the Bali bombings, which killed 88 Australians, a number of Indonesians and other foreigners. His arrest was confirmed by Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday, showing that authorities across the world are fairly confident that he has been caught and has been in Pakistani custody for almost three months, which gives the CIA and the Inter-Services Intelligence in Pakistan the ability to find out everything he knows about militant networks in Southeast Asia and their connection to Pakistan.
This is very important for all of those involved. First, for simply getting justice for his attacks, but more importantly, in finding out how Jemaah Islamiyah, a Central Java-based Islamic militant group that has carried out a number of attacks across Indonesia in the last decade, is connected with groups in the Philippines, as well as in Pakistan. What this does is finds how they’re getting training for bombmaking to carry out these operations and so on. Jemaah Islamiyah first developed this capability by sending its members to Pakistan in the 1980s. With the arrest of so many Jemaah Islamiyah members, including Dulmatin who was killed early last year, as well as Abu Bakar Bashir, who is currently on trial — he is thought to be the sort of inspiration for Jemaah Islamiyah militants — there is not much left of the group, the arrests sort of leaves everyone wondering who will take over leadership of the group, especially the operations, and who has the capability to build explosive devices. This leaves only a few members left such as Sibhgo and Zulkarnaen, both of which are thought to not be in Indonesia, and without that kind of capability it will be hard for them to carry out the attacks they have in the past.
However, as we’ve seen over the last month or 2 months, there have been a number of parcel bombs sent to officials in Indonesia, that while they haven’t been very damaging and show a very low level of capability, they also show that there are people in Indonesia who would like to seek out the kind of training to carry out these operations. And the largest fear now for the Indonesia is the alliance of other Islamist groups who developed as sort of militias and security forces for the parliament like Front Pembela Islam, who have been carrying out riots and attacks on what they see as affronts to Islam — the fear is that these groups will somehow come in connection with Jemaah Islamiyah members and develop the capabilities to carry out larger attacks.