Terrorism in Southeast Asia [December 13, 2002]   [open pdf - 2MB]

Following the defeat of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, U.S. attention has turned to radical Islamist groups in Southeast Asia, particularly those in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore that are known or alleged to have ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. For more than a decade, Al Qaeda has penetrated the region by establishing local cells, training Southeast Asians in its camps in Afghanistan, and by financing and cooperating with indigenous radical Islamist groups. Indonesia and the southern Philippines have been particularly vulnerable to penetration by anti-American Islamic terrorist groups. One such network, Jemaah Islamiya, is known to have assisted two of Al Qaeda's September 11, 2001 hijackers and is suspected of plotting attacks against Western targets, including the October 12, 2002 bombing in Bali, Indonesia that killed nearly 200 people, mostly Western tourists. Some analysts fear that the Bali attack may represent a shift in tactics, from targeting Western military and government installations to focusing on "softer" targets such as tourist resorts, Western business, and schools serving Westerners. However, these governments have to balance these security concerns with domestic political considerations. Although proponents of violent, radical Islam remain a small minority in Southeast Asia, many governments view increased American pressure and military presence in their region with ambivalence because of the political sensitivity of the issue with both mainstream Islamic and secular nationalist groups.

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CRS Report for Congress, RL31672
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