- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Saturday’s suicide-bombing attacks in Bali demonstrate that, despite crackdowns on Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the terror group fits into a pattern: from Spain to Britain to Indonesia, Islamist terrorists have been wreaking less dramatic, cruder, but still fatal attacks. Democracies around the world have disrupted terrorist organizations’ ability to launch intricately coordinated attacks on the scale of September 11. That relative progress further complicates the question of how far liberal democracies should go to restrict citizens’ freedoms in order to prevent terrorist violence that claims a smaller number of lives.

Indonesia, like Britain, is now grappling with how far laws should go to restrict the ideological underpinnings of jihadist terror, such as the vitriolic sermons of some mullahs. Since Saturday, prominent Indonesian security and terrorism experts have been calling on the government to pass more stringent laws targeting terrorists, which would invariably restrict freedoms and rights. For Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, those initiatives would be politically risky.

Indonesian officials now claim that the suicide bombers probably manually detonated the bombs used Saturday, demonstrating that the near-simultaneous attacks probably did not require too much expertise. The government believes that two JI members that escaped a crackdown in Malaysia — Azahari Husin and Noordin Top — were probably the technical masterminds of the violence, which killed more than 20 people, 14 of them Indonesians, and wounding about 100. Given the little planning required to carry out such attacks, gathering intelligence on them becomes more challenging. The bombings ripped apart the apparent suicide bombers at the torso, but their faces remained amazingly intact — hopefully allowing for identification.

Some terrorism experts believe JI, handicapped after a coordinated regional crackdown on the group following the 2002 Bali attacks, has been focusing on recruitment in recent years to make up for a loss of members. Saturday’s bombers may have been recruited by the JI leadership from other groups that share JI goals. The group is also believed responsible for the 2003 bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta that killed 12 people and the 2004 bombing outside the Australian embassy in Jakarta that killed 10.

Like al Qaeda and other jihadists, JI is proving to be determined and adaptable at recruiting bombers to commit a particularly gory form of suicide and carry out the murder innocents around them. Infiltration and other forms of skillful intelligence gathering are important prevention tools. What Indonesia must not forget, however, is that it is a democractic nation and that cracking down civil liberties strangles democracy and feeds the terrorists.

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