Indonesia Arrests Man for Allegedly Helping IS Recruits Go To Syria

Arie Firdaus
160928_ID_ISIS_1000.jpg Police escort a group of suspected IS supporters to a Jakarta court, June 15, 2016.

Indonesia’s counterterrorism force Densus 88 has arrested a man suspected of sending Indonesian citizens to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) group.

“He was arrested at 8 o’clock this morning in Bekasi, West Java,” National Police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar told journalists in Jakarta on Wednesday. He gave the initials of the suspect, A.R., and an alias, Abu Fauzan.

Fauzan four times sent Indonesian nationals to join IS in Syria, Boy said. Three of the departures took place from October-November 2015. The fourth was in January 2016.

“His expertise is in preparing, motivating and provisioning people who want to go, and teaching them techniques for lying if they are caught,” Boy said.

Fauzan was captured thanks to a failed attempt to send seven other Indonesians to Syria via Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Sept. 22, Boy explained.

Three of the seven were arrested and have been named as suspects while the other four are being classified as witnesses. Fauzi’s role was uncovered during interrogation of the three suspects.

"They said they were getting orders from Abu Fauzan," Boy said.

Fauzan and the three other suspects were charged under Law No. 15, 2003 on Combatting Criminal Acts of Terrorism. Convictions under the law carry sentences of up to 15 years.

Linked to Bahrun Naim?

Police said they were still investigating whether Fauzan was working for Bahrun Naim or for Bahrumsyah, two Indonesian IS figures based in Syria who are jockeying for influence within the group, analysts believe.

Al Chaidar, a terrorism expert from Malikussaleh University in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, said Fauzan was likely a follower of Bahrun Naim, who is suspected of having masterminded an attack in Jakarta in Jan. 2016 that left eight people dead.

“They’ve known each other for a long time. From when there were both in Poso,” Chaidar told BenarNews, referring to a regency in Central Sulawesi where the militant group Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) is based.

MIT’s numbers have dwindled to less than a dozen after its leader, Santoso, was killed in July following a months-long military operation there.


According to the Coordinating Ministry of Political, Legal and Security Affairs, some 800 Indonesian citizens had joined IS by the end of 2015. The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) puts the number at around 500.

The data discrepancy is not surprising, according to BNPT spokesman Irfan Idris. People who go to Syria do so via illegal routes, and their numbers are therefore hard to know exactly.

People are still joining IS in Syria due to its propaganda, circulated in books, websites and social media, he added.

Indonesia law currently allows people to be arrested only after they carry out acts of terrorism. “So we are asking for a revision of Law No. 15, 2003, so that it can be used for prevention” Irfan said.

“If that happens, people suspected of spreading radical ideology can be sanctioned. The dissemination can be stopped.”

But in Chaidar’s view, economic inequality is also driving people toward IS.

Interest in joining the IS is not solely triggered by ideology, but also the lure of a salary, he said.

"Economic recovery is the key" to removing that motivation, he said.


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