North Sumatra, Indonesia – Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the al-Qaeda-affiliated group that masterminded the Bali bombings in 2002, has discovered a brand new supply of earnings – a community of charity donation containers stationed throughout Indonesia that had been solely found after one of many group’s leaders was arrested together with 23 different members late final 12 months.

The group’s use of the seemingly innocuous containers, that are clustered outdoors minimarkets throughout the archipelago and often utilized by charities, may very well be extra important than the arrest of JI chief Zulkarnaen, also called Aris Sumarsono, who had been on the run for 18 years, analysts stated.

He’s considered probably the most senior members of JI and was instrumental within the assaults on Bali, which left greater than 200 individuals lifeless.

“The true main blow for JI isn’t the arrest of Zulkarnaen however the discovery of JI’s supply of earnings by each unlawful and authorized ‘charity work’”, Noor Huda Ismail, a former member of the hardline group Darul Islam who has since based the Institute for Worldwide Peace Constructing and runs deradicalisation programmes and workshops throughout Indonesia, informed Al Jazeera.

“The significance of the arrest is uncovering the energetic JI cells who’ve been hibernating ‘peacefully’ utilizing legit covers resembling foundations, charity organisations and NGOs,” he stated.

Nationwide Police Spokesperson Inspector Basic Argo Yuwono informed the media in December that police had discovered greater than 20,000 donation containers in raids throughout 12 areas in Indonesia, together with Jakarta, Lampung, North Sumatra, Yogyakarta, East Java and Maluku.

In line with the police, donation containers had been additionally positioned in different places along with minimarkets, together with petrol stations, eating places, cafes and outlets raking in hundreds of thousands of Indonesian rupiah daily. The size of the operation appeared to have elevated considerably over the previous few years, the authorities stated.

Police arrested 57-year-old Zulkarnaen, a senior chief of the al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), who had been on the run for his alleged function within the 2002 Bali bombings, final month [Fajrin Raharjo/AFP]

The containers had been registered, legally, to the Abdurrachman bin Auf (ABA) Charity Basis however that was not the place the cash was going.

ABA was a entrance for JI, and a number of the basis’s members have additionally been arrested, together with Fitria Sanjaya, who was detained after giving details about the alms containers and the diversion of funds to Jemaah Islamiyah.

Weapons, coaching

Chatting with Al Jazeera, former JI operative Arif Budi Setyawan, who has since written a guide that warns of the risks of radicalisation, says the invention of the donation containers marks a definite escalation within the group’s fundraising efforts. “That they had this sort of system of donations earlier than, however not as many as now and never in public locations like minimarkets,” he stated. “Little doubt this has astonished many individuals, however as a former member of JI, I’m simply stunned by the sheer numbers [of donations boxes].”

There may be hypothesis that Jemaah Islamiyah applied the brand new public donation system after failing to boost sufficient funds from its personal members, who’re sometimes anticipated to contribute their very own cash within the type of alms to the group.

In line with Ali Imron, who was jailed for life in 2003 for his function within the Bali bombings, JI beforehand relied on high-level donors moderately than soliciting funds from the general public. “That technique didn’t exist earlier than. We had our personal cash. For jihad in Ambon and Poso, we had monetary assist from plenty of sources and for the Bali bombing we had cash instantly from Osama bin Laden,” he stated.

The police say the funds from the containers had been used to purchase weapons and explosives, in addition to to offer coaching for JI operatives in Syria. The group has been out of the limelight for practically 10 years, however is estimated to have about 6,000 energetic cells, in response to the police’s Yuwono.

A number of weeks earlier than Zulkarnaen was apprehended, one other senior member of Jemaah Islamiyah, Upik Lawanga, was additionally arrested. At his residence, police found an underground bunker containing weapons and bomb-making tools, prompting fears that the group was planning a brand new wave of assaults.

JI was answerable for the bombings of a Bali nightclub and bar in 2002 by which greater than 200 individuals had been killed and a whole lot injured [File: Ed Wray/AFP]

Along with the current arrests, 82-year-old Abu Bakar Bashir, who was the so-called “non secular chief” of JI on the time of the Bali assaults, is about to be launched from jail on Friday after serving two-thirds of a 15-year sentence for supporting spiritual coaching camps in Indonesia’s Aceh Province.

In 2014, he pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the previous chief of the ISIL (ISIS) group, who was killed in Syria in October 2019.

Ismail says the invention of the funding community will most likely be solely a short lived setback to the group’s ambitions.

“The invention of JI’s supply of funding will weaken the organisation briefly earlier than it could actually bounce again and rejuvenate itself by its large community within the nation,” he stated.

“I believe JI will metamorphose from utilizing the tactic of ‘bullets’ to ‘ballots’ by pushing its extremist ideology by politics. Sadly, the specter of terrorism is not going to be rooted out fully in Indonesia. What we are able to do is to decelerate the method of development and comprise its tentacles.”

The previous member Setyawan agreed that JI, which was banned in Indonesia in 2008 after a sustained crackdown by counterterrorism forces, ought to as soon as once more be considered with concern.

“Within the brief time period, we should always not concern JI, however maybe in the long run we have to stay cautious,” he stated. “Specifically, we have to study the connection between elevating funds by hundreds of donation containers in minimarkets with the invention of selfmade weapons in bunkers.”