27 June 2024

Announcement by Al-Qaeda media of the "martyrdom" of Heru Siswanto in May 2022. Heru, then head of the JAT branch in Surabaya, East Java, had gone to Yemen in 2014 to train with AQAP and died of leukemia eight years later.

[Jakarta, 27 June 2024] The Al-Qaeda franchise in Yemen has exerted a small but steady pull on Indonesian jihadis as illustrated by trials that concluded in Jakarta in May 2024. 

Indonesians with al-Qaeda in Yemen, the latest report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), examines a dozen cases of Indonesian extremists who sought training with AQAP from 2012 to 2023. Most departed between 2013 and 2015 with the aim of acquiring military training for a vague future use against Islam’s enemies, not for planning terrorist attacks at home. 

 The attraction of Yemen was in part the belief at the time that the Sunni AQAP would ultimately prevail over both Shi’a Houthi and Western-backed leaders.

“Belief in the imminent victory of Islamic forces is a powerful pull factor for would-be mujahidin,” says Sidney Jones, senior adviser of IPAC. “This is something to consider when thinking about the next international battle that Indonesians might be tempted to join.”

The recently concluded trials involved six men linked to the organisations Jamaah Ansharul Tauhid (JAT), founded by radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba’asyir in 2008, and Jamaah Ansharul Syariah (JAS), a splinter that broke away from JAT after Ba’asyir swore loyalty to ISIS in 2014. JAT in East Java was the primary driver of the search for training in Yemen.

While thousands of Indonesians attend schools in Yemen, mostly in the Hadramaut region, neither the traditional Islamic schools there nor the less popular Salafi schools closer to Sana’a have been fertile areas for AQAP recruitment. Those known to have sought military training with AQAP were all radicalised at home by groups that viewed al-Qaeda as an ideological ally.

“Even if those who went to Yemen did not initially plan to conduct violent attacks in Indonesia, the problem with the skills they learned, from sharpshooting to bomb-making, is that sooner or later, there could be a temptation to use them,” says Jones.



Violent Extremism

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