Today’s deadly bombing attacks on two hotels in Jakarta—the Ritz-Carlton and the JW Marriott—are bitter reminders that when the global Islamic jihad sinks its roots into a country even the best counterterrorist campaign can never afford to reduce its vigilance. Indonesia was wracked by jihadist terror from 2002 until 2005. An al Qaeda affiliate, Jemaah Islamiyah, carried out a wave of bombings that targeted Westerners, especially Australians, but actually killed more Indonesian innocents than anyone else. It is too soon to say with certainty if today’s attack is a JI operation but simultaneous attacks on Western hotels are a trademark modus operandi of the global jihad and al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda has publicly associated itself closely with JI and its previous wave of terror. Just last December, Ayman Zawahiri issued an audio message eulogizing three JI operatives executed for bombings in Bali in 2002. Zawahiri warned then that the jihad would strike again in Indonesia because Indonesia’s moderate government allegedly “protects the interests of the Crusaders and the Jews.” The message specifically warned Australians not to visit their Muslim neighbor.
Originally submitted to The Daily Beast by Bruce Riedel on July 17, 2009.
There is no evidence that Southeast Asia features prominently in the strategic calculus of the ISIS leadership in Raqqa.