Singapore warns of 'violent splinter cells' after dissolution of JI terror group in Indonesia

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Singapore, Jul 7 (PTI) Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Saturday warned of the risk of emergence of "violent splinter cells" in the recent future following the dissolution of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) in Indonesia.

The longer term impact of the outfit's dissolution, however, remains to be seen, the Channel News Asia reported, citing the MHA.

Multi-ethnic Singapore, a hub of global multinationals, is always on alert and on guard against terrorism activities in Southeast Asia, the ministry said as it warned that the threat of terrorism to Singapore remains high and the country continues to be a prized target for terrorists.

The ministry urged the public to be vigilant and contact the police or the Internal Security Department promptly should they come across suspicious people or activities.

Indonesia's terror group JI is behind some of Southeast Asia's deadliest attacks, including the 2002 Bali bombings that killed over 200 people, the ministry said.

"For example, the JI’s radical ideologies, including the goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate in Southeast Asia through armed struggle, will likely continue to have appeal among some groups and individuals," it added.

JI leaders in Indonesia had announced the group's dissolution at a June 30 event organised by Indonesia's national police counter-terrorism squad.

Welcoming the development, the Singapore government had said the dissolution of JI in Indonesia is a "significant development and a major accomplishment" for Indonesian authorities.

A video of the announcement, uploaded on the YouTube account of hardline Islamic website Arrahmah on Jul 3, showed 16 JI officials standing on a stage. They included Abu Rusdan, a militant cleric and former JI leader arrested in Bekasi in September 2021, and Para Wijayanto, who was arrested in 2019 for recruiting militants and raising funds for Syria. Both are still in detention.

The dissolution was agreed upon by the assembly of seniors and leaders of Islamic boarding schools affiliated with JI, said Abu Rusdan.

The JI members agreed to return to the fold of the Republic of Indonesia and make changes to the curriculum of the JI-affiliated schools so that there are no more materials that teach extremism.

The group was formed in 1993 by Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Bashir with the mission of building an Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

Abdullah died in 1999 while Abu Bakar was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011 on charges of funding militant training in Aceh. The 83-year-old was released in 2021 on humanitarian grounds.

Allegedly affiliated with Al-Qaeda, the group was designated a banned organisation by the Jakarta District Court in 2008 after several terror attacks by individuals acting on behalf of the group.

JI saw several splits that resulted in organisations founded by people who were dissatisfied with the decisions of its top brass. Abu Bakar Bashir himself left JI and formed the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) in 2000 before stepping down in 2008 after an internal dispute.

The United States in 2017 designated MMI as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) for its alleged links to the Al Qaeda and Al Nusra Front movements. The US views this group as posing a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism, although the MMI has denied links to terror groups. PTI GS RPA