Relatives of Al-Baghdadi Live in Indonesia, Intelligence Agency Says

Rina Chadijah
Jakarta
2017-06-07
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170607_ID_relatives_1000.jpg Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State, addresses worshippers at a mosque in the militant-held northern Iraqi city of Mosul, Baghdad, in this image taken from a propaganda video, July 5, 2014.
AFP/HO/Al-Furqan Media

Some relatives of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State (IS) militant group, are living in Indonesia but do not pose any threat to the nation’s security and could be tapped to join de-radicalization programs in countering terrorism, according to intelligence officials.

The kin of al-Baghdadi, one of the world’s most wanted terrorists, are living in the city of Solo in Central Java province, the spokesman for Indonesia’s State Intelligence Agency (BIN) said Wednesday.

Officials have identified the Solo residents who have blood ties to Baghdadi through his clan in Yemen, Wawan Hari Purwanto, BIN’s director of communication and information, told BenarNews in an interview.

He declined to give more details, citing security concerns. He also did not reveal the exact number of Baghdadi’s relatives living in Solo, about 580 km (360 miles) east of the nation’s capital, Jakarta.

“They still have blood relations,” said Wawan, a terrorism analyst. “I cannot give details of whether they are older brothers or sisters, younger brothers or sisters or cousins. What is sure is they are from one clan.”

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the 45-year-old leader of IS, is an Iraqi national. He made his first appearance on a video in July 2014 when he gave a sermon in Mosul after IS fighters seized the northern Iraqi city. His current location is unknown.

Wawan said intelligence officials were still approaching the family members in Indonesia, urging them to help the government battle terrorism, especially through its de-radicalization efforts to encourage those with extreme ideologies to adopt more moderate views.

“We continue to approach (them), so they are willing to help the country. We hope (to get) a positive response,” Wawan said.

During the interview, Wawan referred to the Solo family in both singular and plural terms, refusing to acknowledge the number of relatives. But he hinted that officials have contacted at least one person.

“He is Indonesian. His native family is from Yemen. He is a good person who disagrees with ISIS views. … He has contacted Baghdadi, as a family. But he disagrees with ISIS ideology,” Wawan said, using a different acronym for IS.

Despite having close ties with Baghdadi, the Solo family members do not share IS views especially in terms of spreading terrorism, Wawan emphasized.

Born into a lower-middle-class and devout Sunni Muslim family in Iraq in 1971, Baghdadi uses his nom de guerre, not his real name, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim al-Badri.

He has been careful not to reveal his whereabouts for a good reason: In 2006, U.S. forces tracked down and killed one of his elusive predecessors, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, during a bombing raid.

In December 2016, the U.S. State Department announced a reward of $25 million for information leading to Baghdadi’s capture – more than doubling the previous bounty for his head.

Analysts expect no impact

Other security analysts played down Wawan’s comments regarding the significance of having identified Baghdadi’s relatives in Indonesia, saying the unconfirmed information might not augment the country’s de-radicalization efforts.

Taufik Andrie, a terrorism analyst with the Jakarta-based Prasasti Perdamaian Foundation, said even if Baghdadi’s relatives were indeed living in the country, they would not have a meaningful involvement in the de-radicalization process.

“I do not think it will be effective at all. This is a battle of mahzab (ideology). People who are affected by this (IS) ideology will stand up,” he told BenarNews.

Al Chaidar, a terrorism analyst from Malikussaleh University in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, supported Taufik’s opinion, adding he wasn’t convinced about the presence of Baghdadi’s relatives in Indonesia.

“How the blood relation is connected is not clear. It was also mentioned that they are harmless,” he told BenarNews. “So, in my opinion, this would not mean anything.”

Revamping a person’s radical ideology, he said, would not be easy.

“Although it is said a person has a blood relationship with Baghdadi, it does not necessarily mean that people who have been contaminated with radical ideology will believe in that person,” he said.

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