Updated at 7:15 a.m. ET on 2017-01-27
Indonesian authorities said Thursday they had detained a family of five deported from Turkey over suspected links to Islamic State – the second batch of Indonesians expelled from that country within a week for allegedly planning to join IS in Syria.
The five – a man, woman, a teenage girl and two boys under age 10 – were arrested in Denpasar, Bali, by immigration officers and police when they arrived on a flight from Istanbul on Wednesday morning. The man, a former Ministry of Finance official, had been educated in top schools in Indonesia, according to a report.
“They have admitted they wanted to join IS in Syria during an interrogation by Turkish security officers,” National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Rikwanto told BenarNews in Jakarta.
On Saturday, 17 Indonesians were sent home from Turkey over similar allegations.
The family of five, who originated from North Jakarta, were arrested in Turkey on Jan. 16 and taken to a hospital for medical checkups, then held in a Turkish jail before being sent back to Indonesia, officials said.
“Today (Thursday) counter-terrorist police squad Densus 88 and Bali police sent the family to Jakarta for further investigation,” Bali police spokesman Hengky Widjaja told BenarNews.
An educated man
Police identified the adult family members by their initials: a man TUAB, 40; and a woman, NK, 55. The others were identified as a 14-year-old girl, and two boys ages 8 and 4.
“The man had a good position at the finance ministry. He was educated in some of Indonesia’s top schools and earned a master’s in public policy from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia,” an Indonesian security official told Channel NewsAsia.
Rikwanto said the family paid for their trip. “The money they used to go there was from selling their house. When they were deported they also used their own money,” he said.
The family departed from Jakarta in August 2016, flying to Istanbul via Bangkok. They moved several times while in Istanbul before meeting with a militant known as Aji (alias Abu Jihad), who brought them to a shelter where they met some other Indonesians, according to Rikwanto.
Last week, 17 people including seven children were detained as they arrived at Jakarta’s International Airport aboard a flight from Istanbul.
All were freed on Tuesday after police concluded that they were victims of an IS recruiter.
Immigration authorities have a tough time identifying potential radicals suspected of traveling to Syria, despite having ample data, a top official with the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) told Benar News.
“Lots of data can be manipulated by some parties so they can pass the security checks,” said Arif Darmawan, the second deputy at BNPT.
Besides, he said, Indonesia cannot prohibit people from traveling if they meet the requirements for a passport.
Many Indonesians want to go to Syria because they believe in the concept of hijrah or jihad by emigration.
“They do not know the situation there. Even if they know, they believe in hijrah so such that the circumstances will not matter,” he said.
“Many of them do not join the war, they just want to live there,” he explained.
Thailand is a favorite transit point for IS supporters heading to Syria because they can obtain fake visas and passports, he added.
BNPT is improving its border security by adding forces and increasing cooperation with other nations.
“Coordination with Thailand has been more intensive,” he said.
Since 2015, 283 citizens were deported by Turkish government for trying to travel to Syria, according to Indonesian Foreign Ministry’s director of Indonesian Citizens Protection, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal. Meanwhile, as of August 2016, as many as 237 adults and 46 children from Indonesia were in Syria, according to BNPT.