JAKARTA, Indonesia – Indonesians have joined the thousands of foreign fighters who have traveled to Syria to help extremist groups trying to create an Islamic state there, according to a new report, a finding that analysts said Friday could help revive a weakened jihadi movement in Indonesia and set off more attacks on minority Shiites in the Southeast Asian country.
The report by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, based in Jakarta, said the Syrian conflict, approaching its third anniversary in March, had “captured the imagination of Indonesian extremists in a way no foreign war has before.”
“The enthusiasm for Syria is directly linked to predictions in Islamic eschatology that the final battle at the end of time will take place in Sham, the region sometimes called Greater Syria or the Levant, encompassing Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel,” the report said, adding that atrocities committed by government forces against Sunni Muslims have been given strong play in the Indonesian news media and on radical websites.
Sidney Jones, the institute’s director, said the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry, based on information from the Syrian government, estimated that at least 50 Indonesians had traveled to Syria via Turkey to take up arms since 2012. While she emphasized that the figure was “a guesstimate,” the report warned that the numbers could increase.
As many as 11,000 foreign fighters have poured into Syria by way of the Middle East and North Africa. The fighters include radicalized young Muslims with Western passports from Europe, North America and Australia.
Jones said Indonesian fighters could easily fly on commercial airlines to Turkey, where Ahrar al-Sham, one of the Islamic groups fighting the government of President Bashar Assad, helped them cross the border into Syria. Some Indonesian extremists have also been linking up with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a hard-line group linked to Al-Qaida, she said.
new york times