Medan, Indonesia Ali Imron, one of the perpetrators of the deadly bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali in 2002, says the first he saw of the attacks on the World Trade Center (WTC) and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, was at the forefront page of his local newspaper.
“Our family did not have a television at the time,” Imron told Al Jazeera. The 52-year-old was sentenced to life in prison for his role in planning the bombings in Bali that killed more than 200 people, many of them foreign tourists. ‘But I immediately guessed it was’ jihad’ from our friends.
Twenty years ago, Imron was a member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a stubborn group that was founded in Indonesia in 1993, and according to the Indonesian authorities still has more than 1600 active members. JI has historically been linked to al-Qaeda, which has claimed responsibility September 11 and led by Osama bin Laden.
The 9/11 attacks, when al-Qaeda members hijacked four commercial planes and crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, resounded around the world.
More than 2,500 people from 90 countries have been killed and analysts say the event had a direct impact on the development of violent networks in Southeast Asia, some of which have already collaborated with al-Qaeda.
‘9/11 happened at a time when Abdullah Sungkar, the founder of Jemaah Islamiyah, the largest militant network in the region, had died two years earlier and [its spiritual leader] Abu Bakar Bashir rented it [Jemaah Islamiyah’s military commander] Hambali is working with al-Qaeda on attacks on Western targets. But it divided Jemaah Islamiyah because it went against Sungkar’s approach of patiently building the power to take down the Suharto regime, ”said Quinton Temby, assistant professor of public policy at Monash University, Indonesia. told Al Jazeera.
‘Jemaah Islamiyah has never been an affiliate, let alone a franchise, of Al-Qaeda. But it was a key ally of al-Qaeda in the rise of global jihad. “Jemaah Islamiyah provided logistical support to some of the 11/11 hijackers in Malaysia,” he said.
Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, who on the plane that crashed in the Pentagon, passed through Malaysia on its way to the United States. It is suspected that they met senior Indonesian JI figures, including Encep Nurjaman alias Hambali, who is now facing a Military Commission in Guantanamo Bay on a string of terror-related charges after 18 years in U.S. custody.
A Senate intelligence report released in 2014, also known as the ‘Torture Report’, alleges that Hambali transferred money to French national Zacarias Moussaoui to enroll in a US flight school before 9 p.m. / 11 to train as a potential hijacker. Moussaoui would later face life in prison after being arrested in August 2001 and pleading guilty to conspiring to kill U.S. citizens on September 11.
“The small number of Southeast Asian militants working closely with al-Qaeda was encouraged by 9/11, but few knew in advance of the conspiracy and most were shocked at how ‘successful’ it was,” Temby said.
In subsequent years, members of JI and al-Qaeda continued to support each other, Temby added, while al-Qaeda provided money for attacks in Southeast Asia, such as the bombings in Bali.
While Imron was one of the members of Jemaah Islamiyah claiming that he did not know about plans for 9/11, he told Al Jazeera that the group found inspiration in the attacks, even planning the bombings in Bali as a kind of “tribute”.
“I still remember it,” he said. “Imam Samudra wanted to carry out the bombing of Bali on September 11 to commemorate the World Trade Center attack, but there was not enough time.”
The bombing finally took place on October 12 with the attackers aiming at the busy bars of Kuta.
Imron added that the original plan was to attack naval ships in the port of Singapore, but they are turning their attention to Bali after seeing the scale of 9/11. Senior members like Hambali also agreed with controversial statements by bin Laden who wanted to justify the killings of ordinary people other than military targets.
Imron says he and other members of his group showed clips of the WTC attacks as well as video messages of the perpetrators, which were broadcast online and widely, to the two bombers that caused suicide bombings in the Sari Club and Paddy’s to explode. Bar.
“We played the videos a few days before the bombings in Bali,” Imron told Al Jazeera. ‘The suicide bombers were not scared, but the videos of the 9/11 attacks gave a boost.
Imam Samudra, a senior member of JI, and two of Imron’s brothers, Mukhlas and Amrozi, were executed in Indonesia in 2009 for their role in mastering the attacks in Bali. Imron received a life sentence after showing remorse and apologizing during his trial.
Noor Huda Ismail, a former member of the Muslim hardline group Darul Islam, told Al Jazeera before the 20th anniversary of the attacks on September 11 that it was the attacks in Bali that were a turning point in his life after he former roommate discovered was involved.
Bomb maker Mubarok, who shared a room with Ismail at the Islamic boarding school, made some of the explosive devices used in the attacks and was sentenced along with Imron to life in prison in 2003.
Ismail, who says he wondered how his old roommate could choose the path he did, founded the Institute for International Peace Building and leads deradicalization programs and workshops in Indonesia and monitors harsh group threats across the region.
“The 9/11 attacks strongly shaped the development of the global security threat landscape in Southeast Asia,” he said.
Ismail says over the past 20 years, groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS) have established their networks against the backdrop of local conflicts and worked clandestinely in various countries in Southeast Asia, recruiting local actors to achieve their goals and objectives “by means of terrorist use ”on 9/11.
According to Judith Jacob, a senior analyst at Protection Group International, it is necessary to look backwards as well as forwards to understand the true extent of the event’s impact.
Even before 9/11, JI carried out attacks.
On September 14, 2000, the group bombed the Jakarta Stock Exchange, killing 15 people. Later in the year, it carried out a series of coordinated bombings on churches on Christmas Eve killing 18 people.
There was also violence in the Philippines, such as the Rizal Day attacks on December 30, 2000, which killed 22 people, combined bombings in Manila, frequent skirmishes with security forces in the south, market bombings and kidnappings.
In April 2000, Abu Sayyaf, formerly thought of as more than thugs, chased away 21 people from the Malaysian diving island of Sipadan – half of their foreign tourists – and held them hostage to Jolo in the Philippines and a month-long hostage crisis. cause.
Jolo remains one of the most dangerous places in the region and Abu Sayyaf has now joined ISIL.
“September 11 was definitely inspiring for militants in Southeast Asia thanks to the scale and audacity of the attack,” Jacob said. “But they do not need to be encouraged.”