Recycled IS Video a Sign of Weakness, Experts Say

Tia Asmara
2016.05.19
Jakarta
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160518-ID-is-video-620.jpg An Islamic State video uploaded this week shows young boys burning what appear to be Malaysian and Indonesian passports.
Screenshot by BenarNews

A Malay-language Islamic State propaganda video circulating this week features old footage and several IS figures who are already dead, analysts told BenarNews.

The 15-minute, 48-second video shows Southeast Asian children being drilled on extremist ideology, trained to use weapons, and incited into burning what appear to be Indonesian and Malaysian passports, according to a copy released by the Indonesian media outlet Tribunnews.

Wawan Purwanto, a staff expert with Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), said the government was aware of the video featuring IS’s Southeast Asian wing, Khatibah Nusantara.

“It’s just another video uploaded for propaganda purposes, being played again,” he told BenarNews on Thursday.

“This is political propaganda, not something real. Maybe they do train children over there, but this was for public consumption.”

The video is an old one uploaded again in recent days, according to Sidney Jones, a terrorism and human rights expert who heads the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC).

“It’s an old video, shot in early 2015. Several of the people in it are dead,” she told BenarNews.

They include a former policeman from Jambi, Sumatra, who is seen drinking tea in the video. The man was killed on June 29, 2015, according to Jones.

“I think the fact that this is an old video could be a sign of weakness, that they can't produce new propaganda now, maybe because of the exigencies of war,” she said.

About 1,000 Southeast Asians had traveled to Syria and Iraq to join IS by the end of 2015, according to the U.S. State Department.

Jones said the Indonesia government could use the material for “reverse propaganda” to dissuade people from joining IS.

“They use small children, incite small children, teach them to kill,” she said.

Aged five to 13

Ridlwan Habib, a counterterrorism expert at the University of Indonesia,  said the 23 children seen in the video range in age from 5 to 13.

“There are some Malaysian and Philippines children. The rest are Indonesian. They are the children of Indonesian citizens who went there,” he said.

He said the government had two options to tackle the problem: blocking Indonesians of any age who joined IS abroad from returning home; or attempting to rescue the children from Syria and Iraq. The second would be difficult, he added.

According to BNPT, 800 Indonesians had joined IS through September 2015, of whom 50 had died and 100 had already returned home.

In February 2016, Indonesian Presidency Joko “Jokowi” Widodo put the number of citizens who had gone to Syria at 329 – a small number, he said, compared with Indonesia’s population of 252 million.

‘Our guard is up’

At the end of the video, a Malaysian militant leads the passport burning and threatens that the group will send its soldiers back to the Malay Archipelago to eradicate non-believers.

Contacted by BenarNews, Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, the head of the counter-terrorism unit of the Royal Malaysia Police, confirmed that the man in the video was Zainuri Kamaruddin and said he was still alive.

Zainuri is a former leader of Kumpulan Mujahiddin Malaysia (KMM), who trained in Afghanistan and was jailed in Malaysia for 10 years for possession of firearms, according to Utusan Malaysia, a Malaysian media site. Zainuri went to Syria in 2014.

In earlier comments to the New Straits Times newspaper, Ayob said his department knew which Malaysian nationals were in Syria. He went on give names, ages and hometowns of three other Malaysians who appear in the video.

Malaysia has foiled nine planned attacks by IS members on its soil since 2013 and is still on high alert, he added.

“The increasing trend in statistics involving IS in the region is an indication of the increasing strength in their footing in the region,” he told the paper.

“Our guard is up ... there is the northern border that is so vast, the influence from IS alliances in southern Philippines, and possible lone-wolf attacks … IS supporters here are trying to establish contact with IS elements from areas like southern Philippines.”

‘Fond of exploiting children’

According to Mohd. Azizuddin Mohd. Sani, a visiting professor in political science at Universiti Utara Malaysia, Khatibah Nusantara released the video out of weakness.

“KN is now facing problems implementing its agenda and recruiting new fighters in Malaysia. To date IS has not able to threaten Malaysia because police have been increasingly aggressive.”

Since 2013, 179 suspected IS sympathizers have been arrested in Malaysia, and 55 have been prosecuted, according to police statistics.

About 73 Malaysians are believed to have traveled to Syria or Iraq to join the group; at least 19 of them have died, officials said.

P. Sundramoorthy, a professor of criminology at Universiti Sains Malaysia, called the video a desperate measure to attract followers.

“The group is indeed fond of exploiting children in videos as they want to attract ‘sympathizers and empathizers’ in Malaysia. This is part of their desperate measures to accelerate their process of indoctrination [so] that more Malaysians who sympathize with their cause will come forward,” he told BenarNews.

Hata Wahari and S. Adie Zul in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.

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