Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FASHION

Fashion, what's happened in 2014

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

France: 2014 in review

Read more

#THE 51%

South Africa: Taking a stand against child marriage

Read more

DEBATE

The Future of the Book

Read more

DEBATE

The Future of the Book (part 2)

Read more

REPORTERS

France 24’s best documentaries of 2014

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

'We have to build a new Tunisia', says the president of the Tunisian Parliament

Read more

FACE-OFF

France on alert after attacks: a case of collective hysteria?

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

'Beijing needs to revaluate its policy in the Tibetan areas', says FM of the Tibetan government-in-exile

Read more

An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 8.40 pm Paris time.

REPORTERS

REPORTERS

Latest update : 2011-06-20

Exclusive: On the trail of al Qaeda’s Southeast Asian soldiers

In parts of Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia, Osama Bin Laden is being mourned by young Islamist activists who are swearing to avenge him. From the jungles of the Philippines to the jails of Indonesia, FRANCE 24 reporters went on the trail of al Qaeda's Asian network for this exclusive report.

On May 2 2011, history was made in Abbottabad in northern Pakistan. It was there in the Himalayan foothills, that Osama Bin Laden, the West’s most wanted man, was shot dead in a commando raid by US special forces.

A few weeks earlier, it was Umar Patek, the most wanted man in Asia, who was arrested in Abbottabad under the greatest secrecy. This Indonesian activist is suspected of being involved in the Bali nightclub bombings of 2002 that killed 202 people. Patek is said to be a leading member of the terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah.

Was the Abbottabad connection a coincidence? With this in mind, we decided to continue to Pakistan for an investigation we began several years ago that took us across the whole of Southeast Asia on the trail of al Qaeda’s Asian soldiers. We also tried to understand something that is evident from the determination of hundreds of jihadists -- the feelings of injustice and discrimination that are so widespread from Afghanistan to Indonesia, and in a large part of the Muslim world.

To follow the trail we had to gain the confidence of guerrillas in the jungle of Jolo, in the southern Philippines. The same went for Islamist fighters in Aceh, in Indonesia, and for networks of repented terrorists, convicted terrorists in jail, fugitives’ families, terrorism experts and sympathisers.

We tried to find the heart of the terrorist labyrinth, often without being able to film, simply going where meetings and chance took us. There were many undercover interviews, and many no-shows at appointments. We were sometimes forced to bend the rules, for example, to speak to terrorists sentenced to life in a high-security prison. It was not easy to gain access to some key figures of these underground networks. Above all, we had to remain impartial to convince the repented terrorists to give details -- often for the first time on camera -- of the internal workings of secret organisations, and to lift the veil on their own past actions.

We also had to break into the very closed circle of the "new generation" of terrorists, these heirs of jihad who grew up nurtured by the tales of war and adventures of their elders, the veteran mujahideen of Afghanistan. Many of the latter left their villages in Indonesia or the Philippines to fight against infidels for their Muslim brothers. Many in the region are still willing to carry that torch.

On May 2 2011, when US President Barack Obama announced that Osama bin Laden had been killed, one part of the world welcomed the news with relief. But another, underground world -- the one that we encountered -- began mourning for a lost hero, and swore to avenge him.

By Vivienne Montgomery , Vincent LEJEUNE , Sylvain ROUSSEAU , Régis DESCONCLOIS , Matthieu MABIN , Cyril PAYEN

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2014-12-26 Syria

France 24’s best documentaries of 2014

This year, France 24 brought you major reports from around the world. Don't miss our highlights from 2014: from the partition of Ukraine to the battle against Ebola in Liberia,...

Read more

2014-12-19 Argentina

Argentina: The Kirchner era

The woman dubbed by some the new Eva Perón is a divisive figure. Cristina Kirchner succeeded her husband, Nestor, as president of Argentina back in 2007. A year ahead of...

Read more

2014-02-14 Cameroon

Central African Republic and the 'convoy of hope'

Despite the presence of French troops and an African Union-led peacekeeping force, the situation in the Central African Republic remains extremely volatile. Clashes between the...

Read more

2014-12-12 China

China: An 'Africatown' in Guangzhou

With twelve million inhabitants, Guangzhou, in southern China, is the third largest city after Shanghai and Beijing. Like the rest of globalised China, it attracts people from...

Read more

2014-12-05 France

Do French Jews have reason to fear?

"For the first time in 70 years, France has become a country of Jewish emigration". This is how the Chairman of France’s Central Consistory, Joël Mergui, gloomily sums up the...

Read more