Recent victories by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) in Iraq have been celebrated by hard-liners in Indonesia, with scores of Indonesian jihadists pledging support to the rebel group, and voicing their intention to join its fight, an analyst says.
Sidney Jones, the director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), says that some Indonesian jihadi circles, as seen on many extremist websites, are raising money and pledging allegiance to the ISIS.
“For example, on Feb. 8, an event in support of ISIS was held at the Islamic State University [UIN] in Ciputat [South Tangerang]. Featuring radical ideologue Halawi Makmun as a speaker, it raised Rp 41.99 million [US$3,553],” she wrote in response to emailed questions on Friday.
Support for ISIS has been growing significantly in the last six months following ISIS victories in crucial parts of Syria and its recent takeover of two cities in Iraq, Tikrit and most recently Mosul.
ISIS has gained support from Indonesian terrorist networks, namely the East Indonesia Mujahideen led by terror fugitive Santoso, the Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) of Abu Bakar Ba’asyir and the West Indonesia Mujahideen.
Aman Abdurrahman, a radical cleric who is serving nine years in prison for aiding a Ba’asyir paramilitary camp in Aceh, took an online oath of allegiance to ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last month. “Jemaah Islamiyah [another prominent domestic terror cell] generally does not support ISIS. It supports a rival jihadist faction in Syria that is allied with the al-Nusra Front,” Jones said.
Terrorism expert Noor Huda Ismail said that a number of Indonesian jihadists intended to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Some are drawn by its extreme ideology, while others are lured by the promise of financial gain. “The recruits say they receive a salary and their accommodation is covered by ISIS,” he said.
Noor also said that Indonesians were easily entering Syria via Turkey and that more militants would undoubtedly join ISIS in the future.
At least 50 Indonesians are known to have fought in Syria against President Bashar al-Assad, according to the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT).
It remains unclear whether those 50 Indonesian militants have moved with ISIS fighters into Iraq, but it is known that a 19-year-old Indonesian, Wildan Mukhallad, committed a suicide bombing in Iraq after previously having fought in Aleppo, Syria.
Jones suggested that the Indonesian militants who returned home would constitute a potential threat as they would bring with them the combat training, weapons skills and international contacts that local terrorist cells tend to lack.
“We can’t predict the future, but the Indonesian government needs to be prepared for an impact that could be greater than in the early 1990s when Indonesian fighters returned from Afghanistan — and set the new wave of terrorism in motion,” she said.
To prevent former ISIS militants from engaging in terrorism, Noor said that the government needed to pay special attention to them when they returned to the country.
“[The government] needs to give an alternative discourse that the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are not as simple as they think. There are many interests playing roles in the conflict, and Indonesians have an insignificant one,” he said.
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