Indonesian arrest shifts discourse on ISIS

JAKARTA • The recent arrest of a former mid-ranking finance ministry official, who was deported from Turkey for attempting to enter Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with his family, has changed the discourse on the terror group's support base in Indonesia.

Earlier, experts suggested economic factors as the main reason for Indonesians going to Syria in past years, as ISIS reportedly offered high wages and allowances for its fighters and their family.

But Triyono Utomo's decision to leave a well-paying job at the ministry shows that the militant group could appeal to anyone regardless of economic or educational background. His profile does not match that of most ISIS sympathisers in Indonesia.

The 40-year-old former civil servant acquired an applied science and accountancy joint degree from the renown State Accounting Academy in 2004, whose graduates are automatically offered jobs at the ministry.

Triyono pursued a master's degree in public policy at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, graduating in 2009.

Ministry spokesman Dina Anandita confirmed Triyono resigned on Aug 16 last year. "The only reason he provided when resigning from his job was that he wanted to manage a pesantran (Islamic boarding school) in Bogor, West Java," Ms Dina told The Jakarta Post. "He submitted his resignation in February and the ministry approved it in August."

The national police's counterterrorism squad Densus 88 is currently interrogating Triyono and his wife Nur Khofifah, 44. The couple also took along their children, aged between three and 12, on their aborted journey.

University of Indonesia terrorism expert Ridwan Habib said countering radical ideology in Indonesia has become tougher as Triyono's case shows ISIS can directly influence highly-educated Indonesians through the Internet and social media.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2017, with the headline Indonesian arrest shifts discourse on ISIS. Subscribe