IS Supporters Aim to Infiltrate Indonesia from Malaysia: Officials

Hata Wahari

150917_ID_FARMERS_620.jpg Police in Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province comb an area in Moutong Parigi regency, where a farmer was beheaded, Sept. 17, 2015.

Updated at 1:13 p.m. ET on 2015-09-25

Foreign supporters of the Islamic State (IS) plan to enter Indonesia from Malaysia for military training before deploying to the Middle East for combat tours with the extremist group, a top Malaysian counter-terrorism official told BenarNews.

“As far as I know there are 20 to 30 IS supporters who want to go to Indonesia for training, or to use that country [as transit] for Syria or Iraq,” Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, deputy chief of the Royal Malaysia Police’s special branch for counter-terrorism, said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Those jihadists have yet to leave Malaysian territory because they are on the radar of the security services, he added.

Ayob also revealed to BenarNews that three Malaysian jihadists had carried out suicide bombings in Syria or Iraq. A fourth citizen has tried to carry out suicide bombings without success.

“We found and believe that three or four Malaysians have become suicide bombers, and they took these actions because they wanted to die as martyrs,” Ayob said.

According to figures provided by the special branch, more than 60 Malaysians, including 10 women, have traveled to Syria in support of IS. As of Tuesday, 11 of them had been killed in Syria or Iraq, including the three suicide bombers.

Altogether 121 Malaysians, including 23 women, have been arrested at home on suspicion of links to the group, Ayob said.

But he rejected as exaggerated a comment by the head of Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) that “in Malaysia, there are thousands, a lot of foreign terrorist fighters there who are about to be deployed – we don’t know where to – under the [IS] network.”

BNPT chief Saud Usman Nasution made the comments in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that warned of “the imminent deployment of foreign fighters from Malaysia.”

An IS haven in Poso?

Published Monday, the ABC report quoted Saud as saying that IS was working with people smuggling networks to bring foreign fighters to Indonesia.

The fighters first land on the northwestern Indonesian island of Sumatra, and then travel to Poso Regency, on distant the island of Sulawesi, Saud told ABC.

He added that 52 Indonesians had been killed while fighting with IS in the Middle East, including four in suicide bombings.

A total of 514 Indonesians have traveled to Syria and Iraq to support IS’s jihadist cause, according to BNPT figures.

On Sept. 14, Saud told a parliamentary hearing in Jakarta that suspected IS militants from outside the country had made it to Poso or were planning to go there, SINDONews reported.

Indonesia, which has been a source country for IS members, is now a destination country for them, he testified, according to the news outlet.

“This can’t be underestimated, because it is a real and clear threat,” SINDONews quoted Saud as saying.

Hunting down MIT

Poso lies in the restive province of Central Sulawesi. Its mountains are the suspected base for Indonesia’s most wanted militant, Santoso. He heads the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT), which has reportedly aligned itself with the Islamic State.

Earlier this month, three farmers were beheaded in separate killings in Moutong Parigi, another regency in Central Sulawesi. Police suspect that a band of MIT fighters carried out those killings.

“Our intel sources say that the group has about 30 people. It’s not that big but almost all of them have dangerous weapons, such as firearms and bombs. In addition, the group has memorized its terrain, making it hard for us to find them,” Central Sulawesi Police spokesman Hari Suprapto told BenarNews earlier in September.

In Jakarta, BNPT spokesman Irfan Idris said that foreigners had joined this mobile unit, but their exact number was unknown.

“At the moment there is one other foreigner with the group. The foreigner is a Uyghur named Faruk alias Magalasi. His name is on our most wanted-list,” said Hari of the Central Sulawesi police force.

The case of four Uyghurs

In July, a court in North Jakarta convicted four other Uyghur men on charges of trying to join the MIT and of entering the country illegally, and sentenced each of them to six years in prison.

The four were arrested in September 2014 in Central Sulawesi as they traveled to meet with Santoso, according to Indonesian authorities. The four claimed to be tourists.

They had landed in Indonesia after departing from an unnamed seaport in Malaysia, defendant Abdul Basit testified on the stand in June. Lawyers identified the landing place as Pekanbaru, the capital of Riau province in Sumatra.

“We have no other intention but vacation,” Abdul told the court.

It is still unclear whether the four Uyghurs are Turkish citizens, as they claim, or from China’s northwestern Xinjian province, where Turkic-speaking Uyghurs are a repressed Muslim minority.

Chinese officials, meanwhile, claim that about 300 Uyghurs from Xinjiang have joined IS.

An earlier version misquoted Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay on how many Malaysians had traveled to Syria to support IS and how many of them had been arrested on suspicion of links to IS.

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