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Militant Group ‘Proud To Call Themselves Terrorists’

Banda Aceh, TAG. The existence of an armed militant group in Aceh working to build a base for terrorist activities across Southeast Asia was first discovered a year ago, but nothing could be done until recently, Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf said on Tuesday.




“There was no legal basis to arrest them then. I myself had no authority to do so,” Irwandi, who is a former member of the separatist group Free Aceh Movement (GAM), told a news conference in Jakarta. 


Irwandi said young men in Aceh began to be recruited last year, to be sent to the Gaza Strip to fight Israelis after receiving paramilitary training in Java. 


“When the conflict at the Gaza strip died down, an [separate, unnamed] organization took the opportunity to recruit these boys to continue their paramilitary training in Java. This was the beginning of the [terrorist] training,” he said, adding that they moved back to Aceh after they were trained in Java.
Irwandi declined to name the either organization. However, the Aceh branch of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) claimed in February last year that it would send guerillas to fight Israel after “physical training in the mountains of North Aceh.” 


Since Feb. 22, police have killed six and captured 21 suspected militants in Aceh, Jakarta and West Java. An increasing amount of evidence points to those arrested as being terrorists, and not merely former members of the now-defunct GAM, as some have suggested. 


“We must get to the bottom of this,” Irwandi said. “These terrorists are garbage sent from Java.” 



Jihad Warriors 


An Aceh-based source backed up the governor’s statement, saying several members of the alleged terrorist group had been deployed in Palestine during Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2009, along with the FPI. 
“I don’t know whether they arrived in Palestine or not,” the source said. “However, when they returned to Aceh, they became more extreme than FPI.”
 “They may have been influenced by mujahedeen from other countries,” the source said, adding that they had asked the FPI to join them. However, FPI Aceh refused to do so after seeing the weapons used in training. 


“Their religious beliefs are very radical, very different from what we have in Aceh,” the source said. “They won’t get any support from the Acehnese.” 


Yusuf Al Qardhawi, the chairman of FPI Aceh, refused to comment about whether any of his group’s members were captured in the raid. 


Yusuf said the FPI had never been involved in terrorism because it always referred to ulema edicts when taking any action. “When we planned to deploy people to Palestine, we got a license from the police, stated so in the media and we did not use any guns,” he said. 



Al-Qaeda Claims 


Last weekend, a group calling itself “Tandzim Al-Qoidah Indonesia Serambi Mekkah” released a statement on the Internet, saying it would keep fighting jihad even though some of its members had been captured or killed. 


Police said they were still investigating the veracity of the claim, but Al-Chaidar, a terrorism researcher in Aceh, backed up this claimed connection to Al-Qaeda, saying the group no longer identified with Jemaah Islamiyah, but with Al-Qaeda. The group has been flourishing since 2005 and now has four cells in Aceh, he said. 


Another anonymous source in Aceh closely related to a Muslim hard-line group said essentially the same thing. “The group calls itself the Tandzim Al-Qaidah Aceh. The question is whether they have a direct link to Al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden. The members believe that if they die, they will go straight to heaven.”
Chaidar said he believed that most of the estimated 150 members of the group had received paramilitary training in Mindanao, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“They want to move their military training ground from Mindanao to Aceh because the province is geographically strategic and it has easy access to other Southeast Asian countries,” he said. 


Chaidar said the alleged terrorists arrested in Pamulang and Jakarta were connected to the Aceh-based group as arms suppliers. The first source supported this, adding that the group’s aim was to turn the province into their primary training ground, like the Philippines’ Jolo Island in Mindanao.
“During the February 22 police raid, the group had been training for more than one month in the [Jalin] mountains.” 



Ready to Die 


After around-the-clock police operations netted at least 14 suspected militants in the mountains of Aceh alone, Chaidar said he believed the group had broken into smaller groups scattered throughout the Aceh Besar, Pidie, North Aceh and Tamiang districts. 


Sources said members of the group in question were terrorists ready to die for their cause. 


“They’re proud to call themselves terrorists,” said the source linked to the Muslim hard-line group, adding there were at least 100 members and that they had been training in the mountains of Aceh Besar, where police operations had been heaviest. 


The source who told the Globe about the deployment to the Gaza strip said the same thing. 


“Even though they’re small in numbers, their fighting ability is outstanding because they’re not afraid to die,” the source said.[]
Militant Group ‘Proud To Call Themselves Terrorists’ Militant Group ‘Proud To Call Themselves Terrorists’ Reviewed by Nurdin Hasan on March 10, 2010 Rating: 5

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