Jakarta. The National Police suspect that some of the Indonesian nationals arrested by Turkish officials on suspicion of trying to cross the border to Syria may be related to an Indonesian-born Islamic State fighter named Abu Jandal.
Abu, originally hailing from Malang, East Java, is now believed to have join IS ranks in Syria. In December, Abu appeared in a YouTube video airing threats to Indonesian military and police’s counterterrorism unit Densus 88.
In the four-minute video, Abu also called on other Indonesians to join him.
Indonesian officials confirmed on Friday that up to 32 Indonesians had been detained in Turkey or gone missing after being suspected of trying to cross into Syria to join IS militants.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters a group of 16 Indonesians, most of them women and children, had been arrested by Turkish authorities this week.
“We have obtained information that they were indeed trying to cross into Syria,” she said, adding that Indonesia would send a team to help a Turkish investigation.
Retno said 16 other Indonesian citizens who went missing from a tour group last week had yet to be located, though Turkish authorities are yet to confirm if they were still in Turkey or had crossed into Syria.
National Police deputy chief Comr. Gen. Badrodin Haiti said among those arrested near the Turkey-Syria border was a woman who was traveling with her seven children believed to be Abu’s wife and kids.
“We have obtained the identities of the 16 people and we will match them with data from our embassy,” Badrodin said on Friday.
He said the people traveling in the group were from East and West Java.
Badrodin said upon their return to Indonesia the group would be questioned to determine if they have committed a crime.
The police chief said IS has been secretly recruiting Indonesians to join its movement.
The National Police alleged someone has been funding travel for Indonesians heading to Syria to join IS.
However Badrodin said police did not have the authority to stop Indonesians from traveling to Syria.
“Every Indonesia has the right to travel abroad, if they are not banned by any institution then the immigration cannot do anything to stop the trip,” he said.
Badrodin also reiterated Indonesians detained by Turkish officials were not the 16 Indonesians previously reported missing while on a tour in Turkey.
The Foreign Ministry has requested the embassies of Middle Eastern countries in Jakarta to restrict the process of granting visas for Indonesian citizens in an attempt to prevent those trying to join IS.
“We have coordinated with the representatives of Middle Eastern countries to carefully grant the visas for each applicant. One’s background and destination also must be inspected thoroughly,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said on Friday.
Arrmanatha said the government has called on Indonesian embassies in the Middle East to inform nationals, especially students and migrant workers, to refrain from having political engagement with radical groups in whichever countries they were living in.
Retno, the minister, has also reportedly met with national security stakeholders such as the Anti-Terrorism Agency (BNPT), the National Police and the National Intelligence Agency (BIN).
“In addition, the government collaborates with police from Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries to curb the terrorism from entering Indonesian territory,” Arrmanatha said, citing the Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF) program against the extremists and its sympathizers.
The FTF was popularly introduced by the US President Barack Obama.
Terrorism expert Al Chaidar said the proposal wasn’t effective and preferred the intelligence community as the more suitable one to do the work, not foreign embassies.
“The solution isn’t effective. Instead, it violates the mobility of citizens, although it aims to prevent citizen from joining terrorist group in Syria,” Al Chaidar told the Jakarta Globe on Friday.
“The BIN is the one that must make quick movement regarding this matter. It must hold constant surveillance towards any suspected movement.
“Immigration must also raise their awareness in watching indications from citizen who wants to flee for Syria to support IS.”
Moreover, Al Chaidar said security agencies should focus on the aftermath to prevent possible terrorism from those who intend to come back to Indonesia.
“Actually, we cannot prevent someone from dedicating his life for something he believes in, like those IS supporters. If the government keeps suspecting its citizens who want to go to Middle East areas, the citizen would feel harassed,” Al Chaidar said.
“Terrorism is similar to corruption. The perpetrator will be captured when he evidently commits the crime. That’s why it’s important for BIN to consider deterrence action in fighting against terrorism,” the terrorism expert said.
The government voiced its concern regarding the terrorism threat in the light of the Turkish authorities’ arrest of the 16 Indonesians allegedly trying to enter Syria to join IS.
The number adds to the 514 Indonesian jihadist who have already joined the radical group as stated by the BNPT last December.
Additional reporting from Reuters
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