Who set Poso ablaze?

All fingers point to JI over Oct 12 string of attacks in Sulawesi.

Outsiders, including militants from religious schools, have been heading to the region.

Arms smuggled in from southern Philippines have been used for training and combat.

Attacks in Poso and Morowali took place on the anniversary of the Bali bombings.

Who lit the flames in Poso?

There is growing evidence that the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror network was behind last month’s attack in which armed, hooded men on motorcycles carried out attacks on three Christian villages in Central Sulawesi, leaving several people dead.

The Indonesian authorities say they are investigating the involvement of the group in the Oct 12 incident in which an armedand hooded motorcycle gang carried out pre-dawn raids in the strife-torn areas of Poso and Morowali in Central Sulawesi, killing at least 10 people.

Coordinating Minister Jusuf Kalla, the highest government official so far to comment on the bloody incident, has pointed the finger at JI, saying that it has several training camps in the area close to Poso.

It is not the first time the training base has been mentioned. As early as December 2001, intelligence chief A.M. Hendropriyono had revealed the existence of the Al-Qaeda camp located about 300km south-east of Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi.

Mr Jusuf said that Jakarta was now gathering evidence that could make a connection between the camps and those who carried out the attacks.

That evidence is growing.

The minister, one of the key brokers of the Malino peace accord, said that one indication of JI’s role in the recent disturbances was the involvement of ‘outsiders’.

‘It is a hardline group that launched the attacks,’ he said. The local people stayed out of the conflict.

Police investigations revealed that several of those involved in the raid came from the East Java town of Lamongan, known to be one of three ideological centres for the JI in Java. The other two centres are Solo in Central Java and Banten and Serang in West Java.

With several of the JI cells in Java smashed, some of the key operatives ran to the outlying islands of Kalimantan, Sumatra and Sulawesi.

South Sulawesi has been drawing militants from hardline religious boarding schools in West Java. Central Sulawesi, on the other hand, has been attracting younger generation radicals from the Solo and Lamongan groups.

A religious leader in Palu told The Straits Times: ‘Over the last two years, these groups have been setting up bases in Posoand the surrounding areas of Central Sulawesi for training and recruitment.’

There are currently about 1,000 JI members in Poso alone. Close to 100 of them belong to the suicide bombing squad called Laskar Khos that has been tasked with carrying out fresh terrorist attacks in Indonesia.

Several of those who took part in the attacks in Poso and Morowali were trained by JI cadre and might have been members themselves.

The Tempo weekly magazine noted that one of them, Sadam, alias Sahdan, was a native of Lamongan where the trio of Bali bombers – Amrozi, Ali Gufron and Ali Imron – lived.

The commander of the attack on Morowali, Muhamadong, who was shot dead by police a few days later, was a former student of Mustofa, alias Pranata Yudha, a senior JI member who oversaw operations in Sulawesi, Maluku and the southern Philippines.

Mustofa, who was caught earlier this year, confessed under police interrogation that he had been to Poso at least four times in 2001. He trained militants there in bomb-making and basic combat techniques.

Through another JI member, Khaeruddin, alias Mohammad Nazir Abas, who eventually replaced Mustofa as head of operations in the region, he smuggled M-16 weapons, thousands of ammunition rounds and explosives into the area from the southern Philippines through the East Kalimantan island of Pulau Sebatik.

A source linked to Indonesian police in Palu told The Straits Times that most of the arms and bombs were sent to Poso for training and combat.

Explained an Indonesian intelligence official: ‘Poso is a little playground for JI. It is strife-torn and difficult to control.

‘The mountainous terrain makes it easy for them to hide and they have the support of several other radical groups there.’

Why would JI be interested in flaring up conflict in Poso?

The attacks in Poso and Morowali took place on Oct 12, the anniversary of the Bali bombings. Intelligence sources believe the militants were sending a clear signal of their resolve to carry out more terror attacks.

Said the intelligence officer: ‘They lit the flames in Poso. They are sending a message that JI is alive and well.’

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