Indonesian group that escaped ISIS now in Iraq, but cannot fly home yet

A Syrian woman displaced from Raqqa walks carrying a child at the al-Karamah camp, on June 13, 2017.
A Syrian woman displaced from Raqqa walks carrying a child at the al-Karamah camp, on June 13, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - A group of 17 Indonesians who fled a camp run by terrorist organisation ISIS in Syria in June, has made it to safe Iraqi territory.

But the group, that includes teenagers and women with infants, cannot leave for Indonesia just yet due to security issues, said Indonesia's Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister A. M. Fachir on Friday (Aug 11).

"The conditions on the ground are not what we had imagined, as there are several regions that they have to pass through and each region has its own challenge," he told reporters at the Istana presidential palace. "Flying them back to Indonesia is easy, but moving them from one point to another in Iraq is now the challenge."

Mr Fachir said the Indonesians would have to first travel through various regions that are controlled by different Iraqi leaders.

The group was supposed to have been repatriated from the Syrian city of Raqqa after they escaped from a camp run by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in June.

Indonesian police have said that they had 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, according to a police spokesman.

According to an Associated Press (AP) report earlier this week, 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 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.

The wire agency 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.

"Our diplomats in Baghdad are overseeing this process," said Mr Fachir. "We are in communication with (the Indonesian family), but how far we can move in to fetch them remains a dynamic situation. We can use third parties to help us."