03/16/2015, 00.00
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Turkey stops 16 Indonesian citizens headed to Syria to join the Islamic State

by Mathias Hariyadi
The group included three families from the province of East Java. Initial reports indicate that those arrested were mostly women and children who had entered Turkey as part of an organised tourist group in order to reach husbands and fathers who had joined the Islamic State group.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Turkish authorities have taken into custody at least 16 Indonesians who tried to enter Syria to join the Islamic State group after entering the country as part of a tourist group.

Turkish and Indonesian authorities have remained very discreet about the case; however, some reports confirm a broader pattern of Malaysian and Indonesian nationals trying to join the Islamic State group fighting in Iraq and Syria.

What is known so far is that Turkish intelligence detained the group of 16 Indonesians - mostly women and children - as they tried to cross the border into Syria.

Most of the detainees belong to three families from East Java who travelled in an organised tour. However, after their entry into Turkey, they left the tourist group and went missing.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi confirmed the arrest of Indonesian citizens, but declined to reveal their identity or the reasons for their trip to Syria.

Police Chief General Bradotin Haiti declined to go into details as well, but confirmed that several women and children were detained, probably seeking to join husbands and fathers members of the Islamic State.

Retired Police General Ansyaad Mbai, a former chief of the anti-terror desk in the Ministry of Political, Security and Legal Affairs, noted that "Six of these people have close ties with terrorist groups [in Indonesia]".

In view of the situation, he noted that more decisive measures need to be taken to stop the slide towards fundamentalism, like stripping the citizenship of those who join the IS group.

As previously reported by AsiaNews, fundamentalist movements and local Muslim leaders have found inspiration in the exploits of Sunni fighters. Many support the fight for the creation of the Islamic Caliphate, which now reaches across Asia.

Extremist cells and recruiters already operate in Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world, as well as in neighbouring Malaysia. Many are known to be preparing attacks on pubs, discos and bars, "dreaming of the Islamic caliphate."

There are no official figures with regards to the number of Indonesians in Jihadist ranks in Iraq and Syria. However, police estimate that at least 30 are fighting with the terrorists, most of whom "ex-convicts and criminals".

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