Police hunt 3 Turkestan terrorists
Hans Nicholas Jong and Fedina S.Sundaryani
The Jakarta Post
The National Police have launched a manhunt for three foreign nationals believed to have joined up with the nation's most-wanted terrorist group, which is rumored to have links to the Islamic State (IS) organization.
National Police chief Gen. Badrodin Haiti said that the police had been hunting the three foreigners, suspected to be from East Turkestan in China, after they evaded a police raid in September last year.
'There are seven people in total. We arrested four of them [last year]. We have launched a manhunt for the other three,' the police general told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.
The four arrested last year claimed at the time to be Turkish nationals, and the police seized a number of fake Turkish passports when they arrested the suspects in the town of Parigi Moutong, Central Sulawesi.
The group was understood to be on the way to Poso, a mountainous neighboring district known to be a hotbed of terrorism. The police also seized IS insignia and documentation from the foreigners.
The authorities were tipped off about their whereabouts after police arrested three suspected Indonesian militants hours earlier in separate raids near Parigi Moutong as part of their search for the country's most-wanted suspected terrorist, Abu Wardah Santoso.
'We were given the information by the Chinese government,' Badrodin said when asked about the suspects' nationality.
The Chinese police plan to enhance law enforcement counterterrorism cooperation with their counterparts in ASEAN member countries, particularly with regard to intelligence exchanges and joint investigation of individual cases, following a rising number of East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) suspects illegally crossing from China into Southeast Asian countries in recent years.
Despite the four foreigners being convicted earlier this year, their identities remain unclear.
While four members of the group were arrested before being able to join Santoso and his band, the police believe that the three who escaped have now joined the group in Poso.
'They are understood to be in the same location as Santoso, namely the jungles of Gunung Biru [in Tamanjeka], where there are training camps. So they're fugitives like Santoso,' Badrodin said.
Separately, the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) acknowledged that it was difficult to prevent foreign nationals with intentions to join one of Indonesia's many radical groups from entering the country despite rising fears of potential terror attacks.
BNPT chief Comr. Gen. Saud Usman Nasution said on Saturday that the difficulty stemmed from the fact that there was currently no legal basis for authorities to prevent them from entering the country.
'We do monitor those that we have identified. However, not all foreign nationals come to Indonesia to join radical groups, some have other intentions. We technically cannot prohibit them from entering or exiting the country,' Saud said.
Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said recently that at least 800 Indonesians had joined IS, adding that of that number, 284 had been identified and another 52 had died.
However, the BNPT gives different figures, saying that only around 297 Indonesians have joined IS, with 149 having returned to Indonesia this year. The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) also quoted a number between 200 and 300.
'They may be involved in a variety of activities in Poso; they may be training with the group or helping Santoso's group with its activities. They may even be trying to create a caliphate here,' Saud said.
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