Indonesian Militants Recruit Fighters in Video 
Published: March 16, 2010

Filed at 2:57 p.m. ET 

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) -- From the safety of a forest camp, a commander of 
a new Indonesian militant group looks into a camera and ridicules the notorious 
extremist group Jemaah Islamiyah: They are not violent enough, come and join 
us, he shouts, an automatic rifle in one hand. 

The emergence of the previously unknown group calling itself al-Qaida in Aceh 
shows how Southeast Asian militants are adapting even amid a Western-funded 
crackdown that began following the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings and has taken 
out scores of top leaders. 

The group's criticism of Jemaah Islamiyah is further evidence of the split in 
Indonesian extremist networks between militants supporting al-Qaida-style 
attacks inside the country and those who believe such attacks hurt the 
longer-term aim of establishing a Muslim state in Southeast Asia. 

The speech is contained on a 75-minute training, recruitment and propaganda 
video obtained by The Associated Press from a person not affiliated with the 
militant group. It contains scenes of about 15 militants exercising on monkey 
bars, shooting automatic weapons and preaching in a makeshift camp in the 
western province of Aceh that was raided last month by anti-terrorist police. 

It is interspersed with old clips of Osama bin Laden urging violent jihad, or 
holy war, and scenes of the men eating fish and rice together from a communal 
pot, chanting as they march through the camp and bathing in a river. 

Part or all of the video briefly appeared on a militant-linked blog on the 
Internet, released by the militants soon after the camp was raided, the first 
documented case of a terrorist training camp in Indonesia for five years. Two 
short clips are currently available on YouTube. 

''To all those in JI, I tell you. You don't fight jihad with the pen or in a 
prayer cap and sarong,'' said the commander in a hoarse voice as he sat 
cross-legged under a canvas sheet. ''No, you fight jihad with weapons. Before 
your hair goes gray with age, join us!'' 

The commander's face, along with those of other people in the video, are 
blurred by an editor. At one point, a militant tells the cameraman to avoid 
showing the men for the same reason. 

Despite the name, it is far from clear whether the new group has direct links 
to al-Qaida or took the name as a mark of allegiance. In the past, bin Laden's 
network has funded attacks in Indonesia, and in the 1990s hosted scores of 
militants at camps in Afghanistan. Most analysts have said such contacts have 

The raid on the camp was followed by a series of arrests and shootings by 
police across Indonesia. The biggest catch has been Dulmatin, Southeast Asia's 
most-wanted terrorist and a master bomb-maker, who was killed last week in an 
Internet cafe near Jakarta. 

The United States had posted a $10 million reward for his death or capture, 
reflecting the importance Washington places on battling terrorism in Southeast 
Asia as part of its larger goal of defeating al-Qaida worldwide. 

The flurry of activity comes ahead of President Barack Obama's first trip to 
Indonesia since taking office. He is due to arrive next week, and the Muslim 
country's efforts to battle militants who were behind a string of attacks, 
including twin hotel bombings last year in Jakarta, are sure to be on the 

Last week, an AP reporter visited the site of the camp seen in the video in 
Aceh, although there was little remaining, aside from a canvas tent and a 
plastic bag hanging from a tree. The site lies in deep forest and high in the 
hills, about a two-hour walk from the nearest village. 

It is unknown why the terrorists chose Aceh, which was hard hit by the 2004 
earthquake and tsunami, for a base. Until a peace deal in 2005, it was home to 
a separatist army which, while made up of Muslims, was wholly secular in 

The video contains news media footage of Indonesian police attacking the 
separatists in that conflict, as well as news footage of Muslim-Christian 
fighting in eastern Indonesia between 1998 and 2005 that radicalized a 
generation of Indonesian Muslims. 

That juxtaposition suggests the group may be trying to recruit former 
separatists, who would be especially valuable because of their battle skills 
and knowledge of the terrain. At one point in the video, a militant from Aceh 
sings a song in the local language praising jihadists. 

Ansyaad Mbai, the top anti-terrorism official at the Coordinating Ministry for 
Security and Political Affairs, said the group was attracted to Aceh because of 
its history of conflict, availability of weapons and its location across the 
Malacca Strait from southern Thailand, another militant hotspot. 

Militants in recent months have come to Aceh and have used a legal Islamist 
group called the Islamic Defenders Front as a cover for their activities, said 
Yusuf al Qardhawi, the head of the hard-line organization. The front, which is 
tolerated by security forces because it has no known terrorist connections, 
promotes Islamic law in Indonesia and is best-known for vandalizing nightclubs 
in Jakarta. 

In January 2009, Qardhawi said his group appealed in the media for volunteers 
in Aceh to go to Gaza to fight Israeli forces. The group has done this in other 
regions of Indonesia, and it was generally regarded as a publicity stunt, with 
no militants actually going to the Middle East. 

Qardhawi said more than 150 young people from Aceh responded to the call, 
adding that he was introduced to a prospective trainer named Sofyan Atsauri, 
who police now say is an Afghan-trained militant who lived among Islamic 
militants in the southern Philippines. 

Qardhawi said he did not know Atsauri's background or intentions, and when the 
Gaza trip failed to happen, he said Atsauri took some of those recruits, along 
with others from Indonesia's main island of Java, for training in the forest 

''They (Al-Qaida in Aceh) were looking for militant seeds in Aceh,'' Qardhawi 
told the AP. ''It was an opportunity for them to get in to the province.'' 

Qardhawi's account was largely confirmed by an Indonesian anti-terrorism 
officer who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to talk 
to the media. 

The officer said other militants believed to have been at the camp included a 
suspect in the 2004 bombing at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta; two other 
veterans of the campaign in the southern Philippines; and others recruited by 
known terrorists, including one who was released from prison. 

The split in militant ranks in Indonesia has been apparent since the 2002 Bali 
bombings, which were carried out by members of Jemaah Islamiyah and killed 202 
people, mostly Westerners. It is unclear whether the leadership of the group, 
which was formed by veterans of the Afghan war, ordered or were even aware of 
the bombings. 

The commander in the militant video even singles out a Jemaah Islamiyah leader 
by name, Abu Rusdan. He says Rusdan should not be trusted because all he does 
is sit in ''an office.'' 

Rusdan, an Afghan veteran sentenced to 3 1/2 years in jail in 2003 for 
sheltering a terrorist, is known to be a more moderate member of Jemaah 

While the resilience of jihadist networks in Indonesia has surprised some, 
given the apparent success of the country's security forces in capturing or 
killing militant leaders, analysts have pointed out such movements have deep 
roots in the country. Jemaah Islamiyah itself is an offshoot of the Darul Islam 
network, which fought the Indonesian army in the 1960s during its campaign to 
establish an Islamic state. 


Karmini reported from Banda Aceh; Brummitt from Jakarta. 

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