Jemaah Islamiyah, also known as Jamaah Islamiyah, meaning Islamic Congregation, is a Southeast Asian militant organization trying to establish Daulah Islamiyah, a large Islamic state covering Indonesia, Malaysia, the southern Philippines, Singapore, Brunei and Thailand.
Having roots in the radical Darul Islam, or House of Islam, movement in the country in the 1940s, JI was founded on Jan. 1, 1993, by hard-line clerics Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and Abdullah Sungkar in Malaysia, where they had fled to escape persecution under the Suharto regime.
After the fall of Suharto in 1998, both men returned to the country and the group began its militant activities after Abdullah established contact with Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network, security officials say.
JI was added to the United Nations’ list of terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda or the Taliban on Oct. 25, 2002, under UN Security Council Resolution 1267.
Its violent operations began during the sectarian conflicts between Muslims and Christians, first in Ambon in the Maluku islands in 1998 and then in Poso in Central Sulawesi the following year.
JI then shifted its focus to targeting US and Western interests in the country and the wider Southeast Asian region in response to the US-led war on terror. JI’s terror plans in Southeast Asia were exposed when local authorities foiled its plot to set off several bombs and hijack a commercial airliner and crash it into Singapore’s airport in 2001.
Security experts say recruiting, training, indoctrination, financial and operational links between JI and other militant groups, including Al Qaeda, have existed for years.
Authorities also blamed JI for the Bali bombings on Oct. 12, 2002. The twin suicide bomb attacks left 202 people dead, 164 of them foreigners, and injured another 300. After the attacks, the US State Department designated JI as a foreign terrorist organization. JI is also strongly suspected of carrying out the 2003 JW Marriott Hotel bombing, the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing in Jakarta and the 2005 Bali bombing.
JI also has been linked to dozens of bombings in the southern Philippines.