Terrorism In Southeast Asia: Malaysia, Singapore, The Philippines And Indonesia
Authors: Palmer, Ronald D. (George Washington University)
Abstract: After startling late 2001 discoveries of al Qaeda-connected terrorist activities in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia, the American deployment of 660 troops to the Southern Philippines was described by some commentators as the opening of a US-led Southeast Asian Second Front in the War on Terrorism. In fact, however, as the October 12, 2002 carefully-orchestrated terrorist bombing of a Bali nightclub indicated – in which almost 200 persons, mainly westerners, were killed – al Qaeda had long since prepared its own Southeast Asian Second Front. Such preparations seem to go back to the early and mid-1990s, a period of inadequate or misdirected attention by the United States to the region. Local governments were otherwise preoccupied with severe economic and political problems. Muslim dissidence in the southern Philippines was nothing new; it had persisted since the early 1970s. Such fledgling groups as the seemingly overly ambitious Malaysian Kumpulan Mujahidden Malaysia (Malaysian Mujahidden Group, KMM) or the Jemaah Islamiya (Islamic Community, JI), with aspirations of developing a region-wide Islamic state, seemed inconsequential at best. The concept of ties between these groups and a foreign terrorist group like al Qaeda seemed far-fetched. And yet, as it were, beneath the radar of local and US intelligence surveillance, al Qaeda was able to penetrate and manipulate local Islamist grievances. This chapter attempts to analyze how this happened before and after the 11 September 2001 bombing of the US Trade Center in New York.