IS-Linked Indonesian Student Believed Killed in Syria

Tia Asmara
2016.03.10
Jakarta
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160310_ID_IS_1000.jpg A government worker whitewashes an IS flag painted on a wall in Surakarta (Solo), Indonesia, Aug. 5, 2014.
AFP

A student has been killed in Syria after allegedly joining Islamic State (IS), Indonesia’s counterterrorism agency said Thursday, adding it would conduct DNA tests to confirm the dead man’s identity.

Rudi Jaelani, a graduate of Bandung Islamic University in West Java, was killed in a battle in Raqqa, National Counterterrorism Agency’s (BNPT) official Wawan Purwanto told BenarNews.

“The status we received was that he was killed in Raqqa,” Wawan said, without indicating when Rudi died. His agency had information on only one person and did not know the nationalities of others who may have been killed at the same time, Wawan added.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry, however, said it could not confirm reports of the young man’s death.

“We have very limited information [from the Indonesian embassy in Damascus] to be able to confirm the death of the student. So there is no certainty,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday.

‘Dr. Partizan’

The information about Rudi’s death came from a couple of messages posted on Twitter on March 5 by a user who calls himself “Dr. Partizan” and claims to be a Kurdish activist.

He tweeted that 12 Indonesians had entered Syria through Turkey to join IS. Using another acronym for IS, Dr. Partizan claimed that Kurdish fighters had recovered Turkish electronic visas and Turkish airline tickets that belonged to “the now dead Indonesian ISIS fighters.”

Dr. Partizan also posted photos of the visas, several stubs of boarding passes for a Turkish Airlines flight from Jakarta to Istanbul, a travel agent’s receipt, together with images of Rudi’s academic transcript and a letter of good conduct on his behalf from the Indonesian police.

“Right now, we rely on the help of the Indonesians and foreigners who support the efforts of the Indonesian consulate in Damascus and Aleppo to ensure and to get the confirmation,” Arrmanatha said.

Meanwhile, BNPT is conducting its own investigation into the case, according to Wawan.

“We still need verification. It cannot be a brief investigation, there must be clear information on DNA, fingerprints and biographical data,” he said.

Name, appearance changed

Wawan said the government has had a tough time verifying identities of Indonesians who are alleged IS members.

“It is difficult for us, as they conceal themselves, change their appearance and use  a lot of aliases,” he said.

Those who are recruited by IS enter Syria through third countries, such as Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

“It is difficult to trace, because once they get into Turkey, for example, there is a person through which they will get into Syria by using  fake passports,” Wawan added.

This is not the first time that an Indonesian student has signed up with IS in Syria, according to Wawan, an on-staff expert at the BNPT’s Prevention Division. Previously,  Indonesian students and workers in Syria also joined the radical group.

Through September 2015, about 800 Indonesians were confirmed to have joined IS abroad, according to BNPT data. Reports claim that 50 of them have been killed in Syria and about 100 have returned to Indonesia.

The BNPT’s figures, however, are very different from the same type of statistics disseminated last month by Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

While speaking in California during a special summit of the U.S. and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Jokowi stated that 329 of his fellow citizens had joined IS in Syria. That figure, he said, was relatively small compared with Indonesia’s population of 252 million.

To verify the deaths of Indonesians in Syria or Iraq, the BNPT has coordinated with other fighting groups in the region, asking them to send samples from dead people that are needed for DNA tests, such as blood, teeth or hair.

“So there is no need to send the body directly. We have communicated with the Syrian side to send the sample data, but we have to wait because of the emergency situation there,” Wawan said.

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