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These were not initially considered a major security concern by the government, as Indonesia prioritized rebuilding its economy after the Asian Financial Crisis and consolidating its democracy after overcoming a 32-year-long dictatorship.
Additionally, most of these groups confined their violence to the islands of Maluku and Sulawesi, where communal conflicts had broken out between Muslims and Christians.
One such group, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), had a close relationship with al-Qaeda, dating back to the 1980s foreign fighter mobilization against the Soviets in Afghanistan.
JI’s co-founders Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Bashir were hesitant to follow Osama bin Laden’s 1998 call for attacks on Western military and civilian targets, but one faction of JI chose to join al-Qaeda’s global war. Hambali, who had a close operational relationship with 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Hambali’s JI faction bombed churches across Indonesia, unsuccessfully attempted to attack the U. Embassy in Singapore and in October 2002, bombed tourist venues in Bali, killing 202 people.