The Grand Dame of terror networks

The Grand Dame of terror networks
One of several terror suspects Separiano (R) is escorted by police before his first trial in Jakarta on November 6, 2013 for alleged involvement in a plot to bomb the Myanmar embassy.

JAKARTA - The trial in Jakarta of four suspected terrorists allegedly involved in a plot to bomb the Myanmar embassy underscores the resilience of one of Indonesia's oldest terrorist networks, and its continuing ability, as a "jihad hotel", to attract recruits.

Separiano, 29, Achmad Taufiq, 22, Rokhadi, 28, and their ringleader Sigit Indrajid, 23, confessed in separate trials to having embraced Negara Islam Indonesia (NII or the Islamic State of Indonesia), also known as Darul Islam.

The movement was formed in the 1940s during Indonesia's fight for independence, and took up arms against the government to create an Islamic state, with over 10,000 rebels at its height.

It tried to assassinate Sukarno in 1957 and an ensuing government crackdown saw its leader captured in 1962 and executed, but members went underground, committing the occasional act of terror and passing on their ideology to the next generation. Its ideology was later adopted by groups like the Jemaah Islamiah.

These aspiring terrorists used the NII as a launch pad, joining it for a few years only to leave after forming their own packs.

"The younger radicals are eager for action. They join the NII, the mother of all terrorist groups, but get disgruntled with inaction so they form splinter groups to carry out immediate acts," said terrorism analyst Noor Huda Ismail, the director of the Institute for International Peace Building.

"They see the big groups as jihad hotels where they can meet fellow radicals."

Indeed, the trial which began last week showed that crippled terror networks in Indonesia are unlikely to be completely flushed out and will remain the inspiration for a small radical fringe to take up arms, though not deadly as before.

Mr Solahudin, author of the The Roots Of Terrorism In Indonesia: From NII/Darul Islam To Jemaah Islamiah, noted that about 50 out of the 79 terrorists caught in Indonesia since 2010 had links to NII.

"That clearly shows you how influential NII is till today," he told The Straits Times.

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