The Islamic State (IS) is aiming to turn Indonesia into a “provincial caliphate,” Australian Attorney-General George Brandis was quoted as saying Tuesday.
The report emerged on the same day Indonesian police said there are likely more than 1,000 IS sympathizers in their country.
“ISIS has ambitions to elevate its presence and level of activity in Indonesia, either directly or through surrogates,” Brandis told The Australian newspaper.
“You’ve heard the expression the ‘distant caliphate’? ISIS has a declared intention to establish caliphates beyond the Middle East, provincial caliphates in effect. It has identified Indonesia as a location of its ambitions.”
Based in Solo
Indonesia is on its highest security alert after counterterrorist forces arrested nine men who allegedly conspired to launch attacks targeting government and police officials, New Year’s festivities, and members of Indonesia’s Shiite minority.
“We are searching for the leaders of this group,” which is based in Solo, Central Java, Channel News Asia quoted National Police spokesman Anton Charliyan as saying Tuesday.
“This group has a leadership that is regarded as representative of ISIS in Indonesia,” he added, using another acronym for IS.
Officials believed that there were over 1,000 supporters of the so-called Islamic State in Indonesia, Anton went on to say.
For months, Indonesian authorities have warned that Indonesian IS recruits returning from combat in Syria or Iraq could plot terrorist attacks on home soil.
Five of the suspects arrested last week were linked to IS and had been communicating with a Syria-based leader of the jihadist group, according to officials.
All nine were former members of Jemaah Islamiyah, the Southeast Asian branch of al-Qaeda that carried out the 2002 Bali bombings, police said.
On Monday, Brandis met in Jakarta with his Indonesian law enforcement counterparts to discuss bilateral efforts to counter the terrorist threat and the menace posed by IS.
At the same time, the Australian and Indonesian foreign ministers, who were meeting in Sydney, announced a memorandum of understanding between the two countries, by which the next-door neighbors agreed to share intelligence on terrorist threats.
Intelligence reports provided to Indonesia by Australian Federal Police helped Indonesian police disrupt the year-end terror plot and arrest the nine suspects, officials from both countries said.
Australia is also part of a U.S.-led military coalition going after IS forces in Iraq and Syria.