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11/22/03 - FIGHT AGAINST JEMAAH ISLAMIYAH - 2003-11-24


This has been a bad year for the al-Qaida-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist group. Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, a top Jemaah Islamiyah planner and bomb expert, was killed in October in a shoot-out with Philippine security forces. In August, Thai authorities apprehended Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, former Jemaah Islamiyah operations chief. Indonesian courts have sentenced four of the terrorists responsible for the October 2002 Bali bombings. And Abu Bakar Bashir, the co-founder of Jemaah Islamiyah, has been sentenced to prison in Indonesia for treason. But Jemaah Islamiyah remains a serious threat. Philippine security forces recently captured a Jemaah Islamiyah logistics chief named Tauriq Rifqi. Rifqi said that Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists have been training at a camp called Jabal Qubah on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao -- protected by Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels. Philippine police have also discovered Jemaah Islamiyah safe houses containing instructions for making biological weapons, rockets, and bombs. Philippine Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita said, "Jemaah Islamiyah is a major threat."

In 2000, Philippine troops destroyed a Jemaah Islamiyah training camp, also protected by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Philippine authorities have captured or killed a number of Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists. President George W. Bush says the Philippines has been on the front lines of the war against terror:

"Both our nations are threatened by terrorism, and we are determined to fight that threat until it is defeated. Our diplomats and law enforcement and intelligence officers are working arm-in-arm to disrupt terror plots, to cut off terrorist financing, and to bring terrorists to justice."

In a vain attempt to spare themselves, says Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, "some countries might prefer an accommodation with terrorism." But the Philippines, she says, “has chosen to fight terrorism.”

Clearly, that is also the case with other southeast Asian countries threatened by Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists.

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