Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A two-minute video has surfaced showing more 70 Indonesian-speaking men in military fatigues and armed with rifles preparing for a field assignment with the Islamic State (IS) group.
In the video, the men seem to be in good spirits, and refer to themselves as the Ikhwan Nusantara, or the brothers of the archipelago – a reference to Indonesia, which is the world's largest archipelagic nation.
"Hoist the (IS) flag. We are all making the preparation to reach plentiful and eternal goodness," said the narrator, who later said they were in Jabal Khalifa, Syria.
The videographer also introduced some of the men as he walked around, giving their names.
The clip is the latest evidence for the existence of the Katibah Nusantara Lid Daulah Islamiyyah, or Malay Archipelago unit for IS. For analysts, it is proof that a significant number of Indonesians have joined the terrorist group.
Indonesian authorities estimate that there could be as many as 500 Indonesians in Syria fighting for the Islamic State group. Other sources believe the number could be higher. Counter-terrorism officials have verified 159 Indonesians as IS militants.
Indonesia, a country of some 250 million people, is the world’s most populous Muslim country. For years, it has promoted a moderate version of Islam.
In the recent past, the authorities have been able to eradicate some dangerous jihadi networks, like al Qaeda-affiliated Jamaah Islamiah.
However, the video is important. For Taufik Andrie, executive director of the Institute of International Peace Building in Jakarta, it constitutes "strategic propaganda” because “It shows the Indonesians having a place, a force there [i.e. Syria]. As such, it is an open invitation for “other pro-ISIS people in Indonesia to join,” he told The Straits Times.
By a moderate guess, at least 300 Indonesians have gone to Syria and the number goes up each month. Many of those who have slipped into Syria pretended to be tourists or students.
The emergence of the new clip comes as officials in Indonesia are getting tough on IS supporters, ready to charge as many as 14 men accused of either creating a website to promote the IS group, or funding and helping IS supporters to travel to the Middle East to join the so-called caliphate.
One of the men, Muhammad Amin Mude, 41, was arrested after police said they foiled his attempt to arrange for six people with fake passports to go to Syria.
"We see all of them as one group who have divided tasks among themselves. They are in one group with a wanted terrorist, Abu Jandal, who threatened to attack the government, [and] the prisons that house terrorists in Indonesia," said prosecutor Nana Riana.