Turkey Detains 16 Indonesians Near Syrian Border

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ID-jakarta-demo-620-March2015 Pro-Islamic State (IS) demonstrators march at the Hotel Indonesia Circle in Jakarta, March 16, 2014.

Sixteen Indonesians whom Turkish authorities arrested as they attempted to enter Syria this week are not to be confused with 16 other citizens who disappeared last month after breaking away from a group of tourists in Turkey, a senior National Police official said Thursday.

"The sixteen people who were arrested at the Turkish-Syrian border are not them,” the Bahasa-language news site Detik.com quoted Deputy National Police Chief  Badrodin Haiti as saying.
The first group has yet to be found.

Earlier this week, Indonesian officials said that the missing 16, who comprised 10 adults and six children, might have crossed into Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

But according to Detik.com, which cited unspecified sources, the second group of 16, consisting of six adults and 10 children, was connected to two slain Indonesian extremists.

One of the two, a jihadist with the initials “A.H.”, was killed in Syria. The other one, “M.H.”, was killed by Densus 88 police commandos during a July 2013 raid in Tulungagung regency, East Java province, Detik.com reported.

Most of the 16 detained near the Turkish-Syrian border are related to M.H., the news site noted.

"These 16 people – three families – are currently being held at a holding center ... and we have information that Indonesia's Ankara embassy is in touch with the group," Reuters quoted Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanju Bilgic as saying in a statement issued Wednesday.

The statement gave no explanation for why the 16 Indonesians had been arrested, Reuters reported.

Citing security concerns along its frontier with Syria, Turkey also announced the closing of two border crossings, as fighting around the Syrian city of Aleppo intensified.

Two different groups

The first set of 16 Indonesians landed in Istanbul as part of a tourist group organized by Smailing Tour, a Jakarta-based tour operator. Following news that this group had vanished in Turkey, Indonesia announced that it would help Turkish authorities find them.

It was unclear when or how the second group of 16 arrived in Turkey.  

Of the 16 from the second group, eight are from Paciran, East Java, Detik.com reported. The eight consist of a mother and her seven children.

Two more people in the group, a mother and her child, are from Lamongan regency, East Java, and are related to the alleged jihadist killed in Syria.

Another family, from Ciamis, a regency in West Java province, comprise a husband and wife and their two children.

The last two members of the group were adults from Ciamis and Bandung, both in West Java, Detik.com reported.

Indonesia seeks details on arrests

Meanwhile, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said the embassy in Ankara was still seeking information from Turkish authorities about the reason for the arrests and the purpose of the second group’s visit to Turkey.

"We will find out why they were trying to cross into Syria and whether they are affiliated with any radical group. This is what we wish to confirm," the state-run Antara news agency quoted him as saying on Thursday.

"So, right now, the Indonesian government has not yet determined what further steps to take," he added.

By BenarNews staff with details from news reports.


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