Don't miss




Video: Inside the Kurdish courts trying IS group militants

Read more


Nigeria's President Buhari meets with released Dapchi girls

Read more


Southern France attack; Sarkozy and Gaddafi; The return of John Bolton

Read more

#TECH 24

Tech meets healthcare: gadgets for chronic diseases

Read more

#THE 51%

The rise of artificial intelligence: How will it impact women’s jobs

Read more


Brexit: Britain divided

Read more


Was the French national strike a success?

Read more


Discovering France's Mediterranean shipwrecks

Read more


Menswear, spring 2018: Men are changing, for good!

Read more


An in-depth report by our senior reporters and team of correspondents from around the world. Every Saturday at 9.10 pm Paris time. Or you can catch it online from Friday.

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



2018-03-23 terrorism

Video: Inside the Kurdish courts trying IS group militants

The long and gruesome war that the Kurds have waged against the Islamic State (IS) group has not only left thousands dead but also produced many prisoners. For the first time, a...

Read more

2018-03-15 Europe

Video: Kosovo’s growing pains

Kosovo is Europe’s youngest nation. Last month, it celebrated the tenth anniversary of its independence. But the small Balkan country, which has an Albanian majority and Serbian...

Read more

2018-03-08 Asia-pacific

Exclusive report: Escaping North Korea

As Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump surprise the world by agreeing to a historic meeting, we met with North Koreans who have fled the Pyongyang regime. Every year, hundreds of them...

Read more

2018-03-02 Africa

Video: Libyan city of Benghazi dreams of a brighter future

Benghazi is on its knees. Libya’s second-largest city is struggling to recover from four years of war between jihadist militias and the self-declared "Libyan National Army" led...

Read more

2018-02-23 Americas

'Never Again': The students pushing for US gun control

Many of the students who survived a horrific February 14 high school shooting in Florida have become activists demanding changes to US gun laws. Their campaign could well mark a...

Read more