17 Indonesians including women and infants being sent home from Raqqa

Smoke rising from a building in Raqqa on July 31, 2017.
Smoke rising from a building in Raqqa on July 31, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - 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 Colonel Muhammad Iqbal said on Thursday (Aug 10).

Investigations indicate that the 17 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, added Colonel Iqbal.

According to local authorities in Syria, the 17 included three infants and three teenagers, two of whom were underaged when the group left Indonesia two years ago, said Colonel 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.

They also told the AP 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, which was 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.