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Q&A: What is Jemaah Islamiyah?

Friday's terror attack in Jakarta puts the Al Qaeda-linked Indonesian militant group back in spotlight.

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It will probably be some days before any kind of official confirmation is available on who was behind the coordinated attacks on the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta on Friday.

But the only group to carry out high profile attacks on Western targets in Indonesia's capital in the past has been the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), and most analysts expect the attackers will be found to be part of the group's network. The JI had attacked the Jakarta Marriott once before, killing 20 people there with a suicide car bomb in 2003.

Counter-terrorism efforts in Indonesia and in neighboring countries where the groups members have operated – Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines have all arrested JI members on their own soil – had proven successful until now. Friday's attack was the first terrorist incident in the country in four years.

Is it possible that another wave of JI attacks are in the offing?

What is JI?

Jemaah Islamiyah means simply "Islamic Group" and the organization's ideological roots stretch back to Indonesian independence at the end of World War II. Indonesia then as now was the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world. In West Java, part of Indonesia's most populous island, a number of local preachers and their followers who were influenced by the austere brand of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia were angry that the new nation had not been made an Islamic State and took up arms against the new nation until being decisively and brutally crushed in the 1950s.


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