Jakarta grapples with Indonesian pro-ISIS fighters

A screenshot from the video clip showing Indonesian-speaking men in military fatigues and armed with rifles preparing for a field assignment. The clip is the latest to show the existence of the Malay archipelago unit for ISIS.
A screenshot from the video clip showing Indonesian-speaking men in military fatigues and armed with rifles preparing for a field assignment. The clip is the latest to show the existence of the Malay archipelago unit for ISIS.PHOTO: YOUTUBE

New video clip is proof that they make up a significant number, analysts say

In a video showing Indonesian pro-Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters, over 70 Indonesian- speaking men in military fatigues and armed with rifles are making preparations for a field assignment.

The men seem in good spirits as they smile and joke for the videographer, referring to themselves as the Ikhwan Nusantara, or the brothers of the archipelago - a reference to Indonesia as the world's largest archipelagic nation.

"Hoist the (ISIS) flag. We are all making the preparation to reach plentiful and eternal goodness," said the narrator of the recently released two-minute video, who later said they were in Jabal Khalifa, Syria.

The videographer also introduced some of the men as he walked around, giving their names as Abu Salma, Abu Wurwah, Abu Abdurrahman Indonesi.

INVITATION TO JOIN GROUP

The video is strategic propaganda. It shows the Indonesians having a place, a force there. This would invite other pro-ISIS people in Indonesia to join.

MR TAUFIK ANDRIE, executive director of the Institute of International Peace Building in Jakarta

The clip is the latest to show the existence of the Katibah Nusantara Lid Daulah Islamiyyah, or Malay archipelago unit for ISIS, and analysts say it is proof there is a significant number of members who have joined as fighters.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country with 250 million people, practises a tolerant brand of Islam and has long eradicated terrorist networks such as

the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah, but it is now grappling with a small radical fringe that includes pro-ISIS sympathisers. 

The authorities estimated that 500 Indonesians have gone to Syria and joined ISIS. Some say the number could be higher. Counter-terrorism officials have verified 159 Indonesians as ISIS militants.

"The video is strategic propaganda. It shows the Indonesians having a place, a force there. This would invite other pro-ISIS people in Indonesia to join," Mr Taufik Andrie, executive director of the Institute of International Peace Building in Jakarta, told The Straits Times.

By a moderate guess, according to Mr Taufik, there are at least 300 Indonesians who have gone to

Syria and the number has increased each month. Many of those who have slipped into Syria pretended to be tourists or students. 

The emergence of the new clip comes as officials in Indonesia are getting tough on ISIS supporters, readying charges against as many as 14 men accused of either creating a website to promote ISIS, or funding and helping ISIS supporters to travel to the Middle East to link up with the militant group.

One of the men, Muhammad Amin Mude, 41, was arrested after police said they foiled his attempt to arrange for six people with fake passports to go to Syria. Amin is alleged to have arranged the trips of three batches of travellers to Syria prior to his arrest.

Another of those arrested, Muhammad Fachry, is accused of setting up and running a radical website that promotes ISIS and invites people to go to Syria.

"We see all of them as one group who have divided tasks among themselves. They are in one group with a wanted terrorist, Abu Jandal, who threatened to attack the government, the prisons that house terrorists in Indonesia," prosecutor Nana Riana told The Straits Times. 

He explained that by dealing with them using one basket of ISIS-related offences, it would increase the chances that all of them would go to prison should they be found guilty.

There have been calls for Indonesia to introduce tougher laws that would clamp down on people who join ISIS or provide support to the terrorist group. A Central Jakarta court late last month acquitted a man in the first ISIS-related case, due to a lack of evidence. 

In that case, Afief Abdul Madjid, 63, had travelled to Syria to allegedly attend military training. He was accused of spreading violent ideology when he returned home.

He was sentenced by the court on other charges, receiving four years' jail for funding a terrorist paramilitary training camp in Aceh in 2010, less than the eight years demanded by prosecutors.

The prosecutor handling the Afief case focused on events that occurred in Syria, which were more challenging to prove, said Mr Nana.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2015, with the headline 'Jakarta grapples with Indonesian pro-ISIS fighters'. Print Edition | Subscribe