07/09/2015, 00.00
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Aceh: Muslim extremists asking government for money to join the Islamic State group

Scores of former members of the GAM separatist group are ready to fly to Syria to fight for jihad. A formal letter was sent to the province’s governor asking for money. Since January 2014, a group affiliated with the Islamic State group has existed in Aceh, the only Indonesian province where Sharia is enforced.


Banda Aceh (AsiaNews) – Some former militants with the Free Aceh Movement (Gerakan Aceh Merdeka, GAM) have sent a letter to the provincial governor, Zaini Abdullah, asking him to provide financial support so that they can join the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria. GAM was a separatist group that once sought independence for Aceh, a province on the island of Sumatra, from Indonesia.

According to the Serambi news agency, which reported the story, Safaruddin, from the Aceh-based Muslim Lawyers Team, signed the letter. At a public press conference on Monday with former Gam commander Fakhruddin Bin Kasem, he said that scores of fundamentalist fighters are ready to join the Islamic State’s jihad in Syria.

Indonesia’s central government has not yet reacted since it is presently involved in appointing the country’s new military and national intelligence chiefs. By contrast, In Aceh, a province where Sharia is enforced, the story has caused a stir. However, some local experts have dismissed the demand.

Aryos Nivada, a senior researcher at The Aceh Institute, said, “Such a public statement at the press conference last Monday was nothing more than bluffing. [. . .] GAM had nothing to with the ISIS” because their respective political agendas are totally different since the latter sought independence from Jakarta.

According to Fadhil M. Rahmi, a member of the Middle East Alumni Forum, people in Aceh must watch out for this propaganda. "We should not allow Aceh to be linked to the global problem of IS, which has tarnished the image of Islam".

For his part, H. Syamsul Rijal, vice rector of Aceh’s Ar-Raniry State Islamic University, insists on the need to investigate carefully fundamentalists’ demand and "let the provincial government deal with them. These ex-combatants should be marginalised and ignored. "

Speaking to the media yesterday, Aceh Governor Zaini Abdullah dismissed the issue. "If they want to join [IS], why worry about it?” he said. “This is not my concern (as governor) but the Central Government's concern." A former GAM member, Mr Zaini spent 30 years in exile in Sweden,

The presence of sympathisers in Aceh is nothing new. A report published in August 2014 by Serambi said that a group of pro-IS elements was set up in the province in January 2014.

The group's spokesman, Abu Jundallah, claims to have direct contact with the Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but not with the official IS affiliated Indonesian group, led by Abu Muhammad Al-Indonesi.

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