Indonesia’s police chief said yesterday that dozens of Indonesians who joined the ranks of ISIS in Syria have returned to the country with combat experience and therefore pose a significant threat to the country.
Indonesian authorities are closely monitoring about 40 people who have returned from Syria and fear that they will communicate with existing networks in the country to equip a new generation of radicals with the skills and equipment required to launch a major attack.
In an interview with Reuters, Indonesia’s police chief Tito Karnavian said “We are getting in touch with them but they can evade our detection. We believe they are organising their ranks secretly and building interactions with other (radical) networks”. He added that about 10 of these people are being questioned and the rest are free, and that there is no evidence of an imminent attack.
Karnavian also said that there is a new disturbing trend whereby teenagers are being radicalised online and coaxed into launching small scale attacks. A 16 year old boy tried to detonate a homemade bomb in a church in August in the city of Medan, northern Indonesia, but failed. The same teenager also tried to stab the priest leading the service but members of the congregation stopped him. Authorities said that he was obsessed with the leader of ISIS Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and had researched his ideology online.
Karnavian said that “This is a new trend. It’s more difficult (to track them) than existing networks…because they are what are called lone wolves that are being radicalised online,” and added that police were aware of at least 10 such cases.
According to anti-terrorism laws, police can detain suspects for interrogation purposes for up to seven days. The government has called for preventive detention and stripping known militants of citizenship if they have fought for militant groups abroad. Adjustments to the anti-terrorism bill in Indonesia are still awaiting parliamentary approval.