Indonesians Missing in Turkey May Have Joined IS

ID-whitewash-620-March2015 A worker paints over an IS banner in Surakarta, Indonesia, May 8, 2014.

Indonesian officials are not confirming a police statement that 16 citizens who vanished in Turkey late last month had joined the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

National Police spokesman Rikwanto on Monday said the 16 – three families, including six children – had likely crossed into Syria to join IS.

“This analysis is based on a report from Turkish security officials,” the Jakarta Globe quoted Rikwanto as saying.

The 16 landed in Istanbul on Feb. 24 as part of a tour group organized by Smailing Tour, an Indonesia-based operator, local media reported.

They separated from the group, saying they intended to rejoin it two days later in Pamukkale, southern Turkey, after visiting relatives in the country. But they never reappeared.

On Tuesday, Vice-President Jusuf Kalla expressed skepticism about the police assertion that they had crossed into Syria to join the IS ranks.

"I am not sure that they have joined IS. If someone wants to wage jihad, he would not bring along his children and wife," Antara, the state-run news agency, quoted Kalla as saying.


Indonesia has sent a team to Turkey to help with efforts to track down the missing families. And though the investigation is ongoing, at least one official described the disappearance as “premeditated”.

“This is not a missing persons case because these people planned not to return to Indonesia from the very beginning,” Muhammad Iqbal, chief of the Foreign Ministry’s division for the protection of Indonesian citizens and legal agencies, told reporters in Jakarta on Sunday.

“But I cannot confirm yet whether or not they have joined IS because we are still working with the Turkish authorities to search for their whereabouts,” the Jakarta Post quoted him as saying.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry toned down the speculation.

"The foreign ministry is reluctant to speculate about their motive to leave the tour group, including suspicions that they might have joined IS," Antara quoted spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir as saying.

Brother speaks out

Meanwhile, a relative of two of the disappeared lashed out at officials who mentioned IS.

“Indonesian officials should also consider the feelings of the family who have been left behind. My brothers have never been involved in any IS activities,” said Muhammad Arif, Fauzi, whose two brothers, Fauzi Umar and Hafid Umar Babher, went missing in Turkey.

Arif said the purpose of the trip was purely business, according to a BBC Indonesia report.

“The two are focusing on trade. Since last year Fauzi has been focusing on gem stones. Meanwhile, Hafid received a huge order of drapes,” he said.

The brothers are from Surakarta, Central Java, while the other family is from Surabaya, East Java.

Their disappearance is similar to other cases of Indonesians suspected of joining IS in Syria after straying from tour groups visiting Turkey, according to a statement issued Sunday by Tedjo Edhy Purdijatno, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal and security affairs.

According to Tedjo, more than 541 Indonesians have joined IS in the Middle East.

"Earlier, our intelligence found Indonesian citizens had followed the same method. This is one of the methods, according to Indonesian Police and BIN," Kompas quoted Tedjo as saying, referring to the State Intelligence Agency (BIN).

By BenarNews staff with details from news reports.


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