Leader of Al-Qaeda-Linked Group Jemaah Islamiyah Arrested in Indonesia

The suspected leader of a group linked to Al-Qaeda, to which a string of past bombings in Indonesia has been attributed, was arrested by the country's counterterrorism squad, Indonesia police announced Monday. Police spokesman Ahmad Ramadhan said that Abu Rusdan, a convicted militant, was detained September 10 in a city near Jakarta with three other people suspected of membership in Jemaah Islamiyah, which was labeled as a terrorist group by the U.S.

"He is currently known to be active among the unlawful Jemaah Islamiyah network's leadership," Ramadhan told the AP while speaking of Rusdan.

Jemaah Islamiyah was blamed for several attacks in the Philippines and Indonesia, including the 2002 bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, mostly tourists from abroad, the AP reported. The arrest of suspected Jemaah Islamiyah members is part of a larger strike on the group, Ramadhan said, and law enforcement are still seeking out additional potential members after receiving reports of new recruitment and training efforts in the country.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Suspected Jemaah Islamiyah Leader Arrested
Indonesia's counterterrorism squad has arrested the convicted militant and suspected leader of an Al-Qaeda-linked group that has been blamed for a string of bombings in the country, Indonesia police said, September. 13. Militant cleric Abu Rusdan, center, is escorted by security officers after his trial hearing at a district court in Jakarta, Indonesia, on November 3, 2003. Tatan Syuflana/AP Photo

Born in Central Java, Rusdan, 61, was sentenced to jail in 2003 for sheltering Ali Ghufron, a militant who was later convicted and executed for carrying out the Bali bombings.

After his release from prison in 2006, Rusdan traveled Indonesia giving speeches and fiery sermons that received tens of thousands of views on YouTube. In one recorded sermon, he praised as the "land of jihad" Afghanistan—the country where he had previously trained with other militant groups.

Indonesia's police counterterrorism unit, known as Densus 88, has swept up 53 alleged members of the Jemaah in the past weeks, across 11 different provinces.

An Indonesian court banned the group in 2008 and a sustained crackdown by the country's security forces with support from the U.S. and Australia has helped to weaken the militant network.

A spokesman for Indonesia's National Intelligence Agency, Wawan Hari Purwanto, said in a video statement early this month that following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, officials have stepped up their efforts at early detection and prevention "particularly toward terrorist groups that have links to the Taliban's ideology and networks."

Indonesia's counterterrorism crackdown has been ongoing for months already.

In the past year, Indonesian officials say counterterrorism forces have captured dozens of militants and suspected members of the Jemaah, including its alleged military leader, Aris Sumarsono, known as Zulkarnaen, who had been wanted for more than 18 years.

Militant attacks on foreigners in Indonesia have been largely replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly strikes targeting the government, mainly police and security forces, inspired by Islamic State group tactics abroad.

Abu Rusdan Arrested
As part of a larger crackdown on an Al-Qaeda linked group in Indonesia, authorities arrested Abu Rusdan September 10, who is suspected the be the leader of Jemaah Islamiyah. Militant cleric Rusdan sits in his family home during an interview with the Associated Press in Kudus, Central Java, Indonesia, on March 16, 2007. Chris Brummitt/AP Photo