Indonesians to leave Syria after escaping from ISIS

A family of 17 Indonesians, including teenagers and women with infants, are being repatriated from the Syrian city of Raqqa after they escaped from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

"We have received information that they are not fighters," Indonesian police spokesman Muhammad Iqbal said yesterday.

Investigations indicate that the 17 people left Indonesia in August 2015, and stayed at a camp in Raqqa run by ISIS for about 40 days, before the militants threw them in detention cells because the Indonesian men in the group refused to fight for ISIS.

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

According to the local authorities in Syria, the group of 17 included three young children and three teenagers, two of whom were underage when the group left Indonesia two years ago, said Col Iqbal.

The latest development comes after news that a team from the Associated Press (AP) met the Indonesian family in the city last month.

According to the AP report, the family left Jakarta for Raqqa two years ago, intending to live in what they had regarded as the capital of ISIS.

According to the local authorities in Syria, the group of 17 included three young children and three teenagers, two of whom were underage when the group left Indonesia two years ago, said Col Iqbal.

They also told the news agency of how their dreams were crushed after witnessing the brutality and terror of ISIS militants when they arrived in the Middle East.

The AP team met the women and children at a camp for the displaced, run by Kurdish forces just north of Raqqa, after they managed to escape.

They have been sent home from Syria on the request of the Indonesian authorities.

AP reported on Wednesday that all 17 were handed over to officials from the Indonesian Foreign Ministry by the local Kurdish authorities on Tuesday at a Syria-Iraq border crossing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2017, with the headline 'Indonesians to leave Syria after escaping from ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe