Batam official joined ISIS with help from cell behind Singapore plot

Dwi Djoko Wiwoho had many dealings with Singapore businesses. Gigih Rahmat Dewa set up a travel agency to help those going to join ISIS.
(Left) Gigih Rahmat Dewa set up a travel agency to help those going to join ISIS. (Right) Dwi Djoko Wiwoho had many dealings with Singapore businesses.

Terror cell arranged passage to Syria for man and his family

The Indonesian civil servant from Batam who joined terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had made his way to the Syrian city of 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 yesterday that Gigih Rahmat Dewa, who is the leader of the Katibah Gonggong Rebus terrorist cell in Batam, had arranged the journey of Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, 50, his wife, also 50, and three daughters aged 21, 19 and 12.

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

He was once the spokesman for the Batam Free Trade Zone Management Agency, which had many dealings with the Singapore business community.

Dwi Djoko and his family were among a group of 18 Indonesians who were repatriated to Jakarta from the Middle East on Saturday. The group said they had escaped from an ISIS camp in Raqqa in June after being held in detention cells there for over a year.

They are now being detained in Jakarta for investigation 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 for about 40 days before the militants threw them into detention cells.

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

They were held in isolation cells within the camp until "a third party" helped them escape on June 10 this year, said the police last Friday.

But a Densus 88 commander told ST that the families had pledged allegiance to ISIS back 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 people going 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 had told ST previously.

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

News of Dwi Djoko joining ISIS two years ago had raised concerns about the reach of terrorist groups, which many believed traditionally recruited the repressed and poor - not white-collar workers.

Dwi Djoko had taken leave from work for the umrah, or a minor pilgrimage for Muslims, 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. He was the second Indonesian civil servant to join ISIS then, after 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.

But as the militant group loses ground in the Middle East, 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2017, with the headline 'Batam official joined ISIS with help from cell behind S'pore plot'. Print Edition | Subscribe