Indonesians still seek to join Islamic State

Arrest of former ministry worker in Turkey gives govt jitters
Indonesians still seek to join Islamic State

A mock suicide bomber takes part in an anti-terror drill in Banda Aceh, Indonesia on Feb. 22, 2016. Indonesia's interior minister says Indonesians are still trying to join the ranks of the so-called Islamic State group in Syria. (Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)

The group calling itself Islamic State (IS) is continuing to attract recruits from Indonesia despite suffering heavy losses in recent months, the country's interior minister has warned.

The warning follows the arrest of a former Finance Ministry official earlier this month.

Turkish authorities arrested Triyono Utomo, a former mid-ranking official, along with his wife and three children on Jan. 24 as they tried to cross the border into Syria to join the terror group.

They were later deported to Indonesia and are currently being questioned by counter-terrorism officials.

The case prompted Interior Minister Tjahjo Kumolo to warn all central and local government officials to be wary of Islamic State propaganda and report those who may have fallen under its influence.

"We have to be careful with this phenomenon," quoted Kumolo as saying.

He played down fears that the Indonesian bureaucracy could be riddled with Islamic State sympathizers, saying IS was not specifically targeting bureaucrats, but individuals in general who hold similar beliefs.

Ridwan Habib, a terrorism expert from the University of Indonesia told that the Utomo case is an example of Indonesians who join IS not because of economic factors but dissatisfaction with the teaching of Islam.

"We know that Utomo was active in some religious activities, but he apparently did not find what he was looking for," he said.

"He found meaning in IS propaganda," he added.

Meanwhile, Sidney Jones, director of the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said people who join IS are attracted to the idea of the caliphate and the perception that it is a pure Islamic state. "It's an opportunity for jihad," she said.

The number of Indonesians who have joined IS has reached 550-600 people, while the number of militants deported for attempting to join IS was 275. About 100 Indonesians have died in the conflict mostly after March 2015, according to Jones.

"There are still plenty of people who want to join, despite the fact that more and more people are getting killed in aerial bombings, and others are eager to return home," she said.

According to Habib, people join Islamic State for various reasons. Some are former terrorism convicts, shunned by society after getting out of jail.

"They are confused, so they decide to join the IS," he said, while others have financial problems and IS promises them high wages and allowances.

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The rest are people who believe that IS ideology is a true way of living, he said.

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