Indonesia Joins Forces With Britain, Singapore in Countering IS

By Aditya Surya and Paramita Dewiyani
2015.07.29
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150729-ID-cameron-620 Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (left) introduces British Prime Minister David Cameron to cabinet members upon his arrival at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, July 27, 2015.
AFP

Updated at 11:52 a.m. ET on 2015-07-30

Indonesia is bolstering cooperation with Singapore and Britain in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo embarked Tuesday on his first state visit to neighboring Singapore, where he and his Singaporean counterpart announced that their governments would share information about IS.

A day earlier in Jakarta, the Indonesian leader hosted British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the two announced bilateral measures aimed at tackling the threat posed by the jihadist group whose fighters come from across the globe.

"We have agreed to step up our joint efforts both to tackle the terrorist threat and to counter the extremist narrative," Cameron said at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta on Monday, at the start of a four-nation tour of Southeast Asia.

Britain also would seek to learn from Indonesia's approach to countering extremism through “an exchange program between religious and community leaders here and in the U.K. to foster a better understanding of what works," the visiting prime minister said.

‘World’s common enemy’

On Thursday, Cameron will visit Kuala Lumpur, where he is scheduled to discuss the IS threat in Southeast Asia with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Officials in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore have warned that nationals who have joined the Islamic State’s ranks could mount terrorist attacks after they come home from combat tours in the Middle East.

“It is important that Indonesia will cooperate with other countries to tackle IS, because IS is the world’s common enemy,” University of Indonesia psychology professor Hamdi Muluk told BenarNews on Wednesday.

Among other bilateral activities agreed upon by Jokowi and Cameron, Britain will help Indonesia secure its international airports in Jakarta and Bali by supplying it with extra scanners and other equipment. In addition, some 50 Indonesian cops will go to the United Kingdom to receive training in counter-terrorist investigations, according to news reports.

“Indonesia certainly welcomes this cooperation,” National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) spokesman Irfan Idris told BenarNews.

“Although the number of Indonesian citizens who [fight in] Syria is considered a small percentage, Indonesia has to limit the growing radicalism in the country. This is not an easy task to do," he added.

‘We will learn from Indonesia’

A day before Cameron landed in Jakarta, British Ambassador to Indonesia Moazzam Malik spoke at an interfaith dialogue in the nation’s capital.

He “strongly” urged Indonesia to take part in the fight against IS.

“Based on data from the Indonesian government, approximately 500 Indonesian citizens have joined ISIS. The figure in the U.K. is higher even though our population is less," the ambassador said, using another acronym for IS.

Citing U.K. government estimates, he noted that more than 1,600 British citizens had joined IS.

"This shows that Indonesia is succeeding in limiting and combating terrorism,” the British envoy added. “We will learn from Indonesia how to deal with extremism and build tolerance.”

A man named Mustafa

On Tuesday in Singapore, Jokowi and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told a joint news conference that their countries were stepping up cooperation against the Islamic State.

Widodo said he and Lee “agreed that we will share information and other things that are linked to terrorism and ISIS, because we know that this is a threat to almost all countries,” Agence France-Presse reported.

"We are both worried about ISIS and we both have nationals from our countries involved in these terrorist activities including in the Middle East," AFP quoted the Singaporean leader as saying for his part.

After the two leaders met, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced the arrest and detention under the country’s Internal Security Act of a Singaporean Muslim, 51-year-old Mustafa bin Sultan Ali, on suspicion of travelling to Turkey in an attempt to join IS in Syria.

Turkish authorities arrested Mustafa and deported him to Singapore in June, the MHA said in a statement issued Tuesday.

“Investigations showed that Mustafa had been deeply radicalized by the terrorist ideology of ISIS and other radical ideologues he had come across online,” the ministry said.

“He had traveled to Turkey and tried to make his way to Syria in order to participate in armed violence by fighting alongside ISIS,” it added.

“Mustafa also said that he was prepared to carry out ISIS-directed terrorist attacks against Western establishments in Singapore.”

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