Batam official joined ISIS with help from local terror cell

Gigih Rahmat Dewa (pictured) had arranged passage for Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, his wife and three daughters.
Gigih Rahmat Dewa (pictured) had arranged passage for Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, his wife and three daughters.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - The Indonesian civil servant from Batam who joined the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had made his way to Raqqa with help from the local terrorist cell behind a foiled plot to fire a rocket at Singapore's Marina Bay last year.

A local police source told The Straits Times on Tuesday (Aug 15) that Gigih Rahmat Dewa, the leader of a militant group that used to operate in Batam and is known as Katibah Gonggong Rebus, had arranged passage for Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, 50, his wife and three daughters.

The Straits Times is not naming his wife, who is also 50, and his daughters, aged 21, 19 and 12, for security reasons.

Dwi Djoko was the director of the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board's licensing office for the Riau Islands, when he decided to uproot his family in Batam to join ISIS in Syria some time in August 2015.

The family of five were among a group of 18 Indonesians who were repatriated from the Middle East and arrived back in Jakarta last Saturday.

 

The group said they had escaped from an ISIS camp in Raqqa some time in June, after they were held in detention cells for more than a year there. They are now being detained in Jakarta for investigations by Indonesia's counter-terrorism police unit Densus 88, and the National Counter-terrorism Agency (BNPT).

Earlier reports indicated that the 18 left Indonesia in August 2015 and found their way to the ISIS camp in Raqqa, where they stayed about 40 days, before the militants threw them in detention cells.

They claimed that this happened after the Indonesian men in the group refused to bear arms and fight for ISIS.

They were held in isolation within the camp for more than a year, but managed to escape with the help of "a third party" on June 10 this year, said police last Friday.

But a Densus 88 commander told The Straits Times that the families had pledged allegiance to ISIS when they were in Syria. "They claim to have been duped, saying they are innocent but we don't want to just believe them," said the officer, who cannot be named due to the nature of his work.

Gigih, now serving a four-year jail term for conspiracy to commit terrorism, had set up a travel agency in Tanjung Pinang on Bintan island as a cover to facilitate the safe passage of others to join ISIS. Seed money of 27 million rupiah (S$2,800) to start the business was sent to him from his ISIS handler Bahrun Naim, a counter-terrorism source told The Straits Times previously.

Bahrun is an ISIS operative in Syria known to have had a hand in several terror plots in Indonesia.

Dwi Djoko was a prominent official in the Riau Islands. He was a director for the region's One Roof Integrated Services unit, and once the spokesman for the Batam Free Trade Zone Management Agency, which had many dealings with the Singapore business community.

News of him joining ISIS two years ago had raised concerns over the reach of terrorist groups, which many believed traditionally recruited the repressed and poor, and not those who hold white-collar jobs.

He had taken leave from work for umrah (minor haj) in August 2015, but did not return to work when his leave ended on Sept 1. Instead, he sent a message to his superiors, asking for help to "inform my parents that I will migrate and join" ISIS.

Dwi Djoko was the second public servant to join ISIS at the time. A policeman from Jambi province did the same earlier in the year.

More than 500 Indonesians are said to have left home to join ISIS. As the terrorist group loses ground in the Middle East, however, some of these Indonesians have returned home, citing disillusionment, fear of the brutal regime, or simply an inability to tolerate the harsh living conditions of a conflict zone.

Dwi Djoko and his family can expect to be placed under police surveillance if they return to Batam after Densus 88 and the BNPT complete their investigations, said Riau Islands police spokesman Saptono Erlangga. "We already have a deradicalisation task force ready to take charge of this family."