Sat, Jun 16, 2007 - Page 1 News List

Jakarta claims arrest of Jemaah Islamiyah head


Indonesian police said yesterday they had captured the head of Southeast Asian extremist network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), blamed for some of the deadliest terror attacks in the region.

They said Zarkasi had been heading the militant Muslim outfit since 2005 and that he had been seized in raids last weekend which also netted the alleged head of a Jemaah Islamiyah special forces unit.

The capture of Zarkasi, who is also known as Mbah, which means "grandfather" in Javanese, is a further blow to Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaeda-linked organization that aims to create a pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia through violent jihad.

"Zarkasi controlled JI operations across the whole of Indonesia," said Surya Dharma, head of the country's anti-terror unit, Detachment 88.

He said the 45-year-old militant was in charge of training Jemaah Islamiyah leaders, controlling weapons and ammunition, and managing assignments for attacks.

Sidney Jones, a Jemaah Islamiyah expert and the Southeast Asian director of the International Crisis Group, told reporters that if the man was who she believed him to be, he was a Jakarta-born veteran of the Afghan conflict.

Jemaah Islamiyah is a shadowy organization and information about who is who within the group, and what roles they play, is scarce.

Dharma said Zarkasi had been nabbed in Indonesia's cultural capital of Yogyakarta a few hours after the capture of 37-year-old Abu Dujana, named as the head of a special forces unit within Jemaah Islamiyah.

Dujana's capture alone was considered to be a major breakthrough for Indonesia's efforts to curb the activities of the group, blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings and a string of other deadly attacks.

Terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna told reporters that the capture of the two men meant that "the military wing of JI, and JI as an organization, has suffered very significantly."

In a video shown at the press conference, the pair spoke calmly of their roles in the organization.

A bespectacled and greying Zarkasi said he had become the effective leader of Jemaah Islamiyah in 2004 when it had created a "board" at its peak, while Dujana said he had headed the organization's military wing.

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