How Southeast Asia’s hardline teams noticed September 11 assaults

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Medan, Indonesia –  Ali Imron, one of many perpetrators of the lethal bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali in 2002, says the primary he noticed of the assaults on the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, was on the entrance web page of his native newspaper.

“Our family didn’t have a television at the time,” Imron advised Al Jazeera. The 52-year-old was sentenced to life in jail for his function in planning the Bali bombings that killed greater than 200 individuals, a lot of them international vacationers. “But I immediately guessed this was ‘jihad’ from our friends.”

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Twenty years in the past, Imron was a member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a hardline group based in 1993 in Indonesia, which nonetheless counts greater than 1,600 lively members in accordance with the Indonesian authorities. JI has traditionally been linked to al-Qaeda, which claimed accountability for September 11 and was headed by Osama bin Laden.

The assaults on 9/11, when al-Qaeda members hijacked 4 business planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, echoed all through the world.

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More than 2,500 individuals from 90 nations have been killed and analysts say the occasion had a direct influence on the event of violent hardline networks in Southeast Asia, a few of which have been already working with al-Qaeda.

“9/11 happened at a time when Abdullah Sungkar, the founder of Jemaah Islamiyah, the largest militant network in the region, had died two years before and [its spiritual leader] Abu Bakar Bashir was letting [Jemaah Islamiyah’s military commander] Hambali collaborate with al-Qaeda on attacks against Western targets. But this split Jemaah Islamiyah, because it went against Sungkar’s approach of patiently building the strength to take down the Soeharto regime,” Quinton Temby, an assistant professor in public coverage at Monash University, Indonesia, advised Al Jazeera.

An Indonesian policeman surveys the scene after the bombings in Kuta on October 12, 2002  [File: Jonathan Drake/Reuters]
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“Jemaah Islamiyah was never an affiliate, much less a franchise, of al-Qaeda. But it was a key al-Qaeda ally in the rise of global jihad. Jemaah Islamiyah provided logistical support for some of the 9/11 hijackers in Malaysia,” he mentioned.

Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who have been on the aircraft that crashed into the Pentagon, handed by way of Malaysia en path to the United States. It is assumed that they met senior Indonesian JI figures together with Encep Nurjaman alias Hambali who’s now dealing with a navy fee at Guantanamo Bay on a slew of terrorism-related fees after 18 years in US custody.

A Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report launched in 2014, also referred to as the “Torture Report”, alleged that Hambali transferred funds to French nationwide Zacarias Moussaoui to enrol in flight faculty within the US to coach as a possible hijacker earlier than 9/11. Moussaoui would later be sentenced to life in jail after he was arrested in August 2001 and pleaded responsible to conspiring to kill residents of the US on September 11.

“The small number of Southeast Asian militants working closely with al-Qaeda were emboldened by 9/11, but few knew about the plot in advance and most were shocked by how ‘successful’ it was,” Temby mentioned.

In the years that adopted, members of JI and al-Qaeda continued to assist one another, Temby added, with al-Qaeda offering funds for assaults in Southeast Asia such because the Bali bombings.

‘Turning point’

While Imron was one of many members of Jemaah Islamiyah who claims he didn’t find out about plans for 9/11, he advised Al Jazeera that the group discovered inspiration within the assaults, even going so far as planning the Bali bombings as a sort of “tribute”.

“I still remember it,” he mentioned. “Imam Samudra wanted to carry out the Bali bombing on September 11 to commemorate the anniversary of the World Trade Center attack, but there wasn’t enough time.”

Ali Imron, centre, was sentenced to life in jail in 2003 after he mentioned he was sorry his actions had killed harmless individuals [File: Widhia/EPA]

The bombing lastly passed off on October 12 with the attackers concentrating on the busy bars of Kuta.

Imron added that the unique plan had been to assault naval ships in Singapore’s port, however they switched their consideration to Bali after seeing the dimensions of 9/11. Senior members like Hambali additionally agreed with controversial pronouncements from bin Laden that sought to justify the killings of widespread individuals along with navy targets.

Imron says he and different members of his group confirmed clips of the WTC assaults in addition to video messages from the perpetrators, which had been launched on-line and broadly broadcast, to the 2 bombers who went on to detonate suicide vests within the Sari Club and Paddy’s Pub.

“We played the videos to them for several days before the Bali bombings,” Imron advised Al Jazeera. “The suicide bombers weren’t scared, but the videos of the 9/11 attacks gave them a boost.”

Imam Samudra, a senior member of JI, and two of Imron’s brothers, Mukhlas and Amrozi have been executed in Indonesia in 2009 for his or her roles in masterminding the assaults in Bali. Imron received a life sentence after he expressed regret and apologised throughout his trial.

Noor Huda Ismail, a former member of the Muslim hardline group Darul Islam, advised Al Jazeera earlier than the 20th anniversary of the September 11 assaults, that it was the Bali assaults that have been “a turning point” in his life after he found his former roommate was concerned.

The Bali bombers watched the video of September 11 assaults earlier than they carried out their assault in Kuta, killing nearly 200 individuals [File: Peter Morgan/Reuters]

Bomb maker Mubarok, who had shared a room with Ismail at Islamic boarding faculty, had made among the explosive units used within the assaults and was sentenced to life imprisonment together with Imron in 2003.

Ismail, who says he requested himself how his outdated roommate may have chosen the trail that he did, based the Institute for International Peace Building and runs deradicalisation programmes and workshops in Indonesia and displays hardline group threats throughout the area.

“The attacks of September 11 have strongly shaped the evolution of the global security threat landscape in Southeast Asia,” he mentioned.

Ismail says within the final 20 years teams corresponding to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have established their networks in opposition to the background of native conflicts and operated clandestinely inside varied Southeast Asian nations, recruiting native actors to hold out their goals and aims “through the utilisation of terror” demonstrated on 9/11.

According to Judith Jacob, a senior analyst at Protection Group International, it’s essential to look backwards in addition to forwards to know the true extent of the occasion’s influence.

Even earlier than 9/11, JI had been finishing up assaults.

On September 14, 2000, the group bombed the Jakarta Stock Exchange killing 15 individuals. Later within the yr, it performed a sequence of coordinated bombings at church buildings on Christmas Eve killing 18 individuals.

Abu Sayyaf kidnapped 21 individuals from Sipadan and took them to its Jolo stronghold, sparking a months-long hostage disaster [File: Romy Florante/AFP]

There was additionally violence within the Philippines such because the Rizal Day assaults on December 30, 2000, wherein 22 individuals died, coordinated bombings in Manila, common skirmishes with safety forces within the south, market bombings and kidnappings.

In April 2000, Abu Sayyaf, beforehand considered extra as thuggish bandits, snatched 21 individuals from the Malaysian diving island of Sipadan – half of them international vacationers – holding them for ransom on Jolo within the Philippines and sparking a months-long hostage disaster.

Jolo stays probably the most harmful locations within the area and Abu Sayyaf has now affiliated itself with ISIL.

“September 11 was definitely inspiring to Southeast Asian militants thanks to the scale of the devastation and the audacity of the attack,” mentioned Jacob. “But they did not need to be emboldened.”

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