JI's Abu Bakar Ba’asyir Set Free
The spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda's principal Southeast Asia affiliate terrorist network, is being set free today after serving barely two years. He was convicted on terrorism charges stemming from the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 182.
His release will have an important impact in counter-terror operations in Southeast Asia. More than just being a media boon for JI and it’s affiliated organizations, it will revitalize organizations that are trying to regroup after the arrests of more than 300 members. Ba'asyir has called for the destruction of the United States, England, Australia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. While he will be under very intensive police and intelligence scrutiny, and is unlikely to be engaged in plotting attacks against Western interests, he will be an important cause that Islamists and jihadists can rally around. Importantly, it will also give JI the first spiritual leader it has had since 2003.
We should hope that 'very intensive' scrutiny is intensive enough.