JAKARTA: Indonesians are joining the procession of jihadists to Syria and Iraq, sparking fears they will revive sophisticated militant networks when they return and undermine a decade-long crackdown that has crippled the most dangerous cells.
Support for groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Sunni radicals currently rampaging through northern Iraq, is growing among Indonesian extremists with dozens believed to have joined the insurgency.
Analysts say the fighters will pose a new and serious threat to Indonesia when they return home with honed insurgency tactics and international militant connections, echoing the concerns of Western governments.
Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority nation, has long struggled with terrorism but a successful clampdown in recent years has seen the end of major deadly attacks – fueling interest in Syria and Iraq.
“There’s not much going on with jihad in Indonesia for militants anymore,” said Taufik Andrie, a terrorism expert at the Institute for International Peacebuilding.
“There are just splinter groups with no resources or support, so many are inspired by what’s going on in Iraq and Syria,” he told AFP.
“When they return, they will be seen as high-profile jihadists. Young people will come to them for training, to form new groups, to plan attacks, to teach how to fight and make bombs.”
Britain and Australia have expressed fears also that Syria and Iraq are breeding grounds for violent fanatics who travel there from the West to fight and pose a threat to national security on their return.
Five Islamist fighters identified as Australian and British nationals have called on Muslims to join the war in Syria in a new video released by ISIS.
The online footage, titled “There is No Life Without Jihad,” showed the five militants sitting in a rural area and holding rifles.
“We are a state who is implementing the Shariah [Islamic law] in both Iraq and Sham [Syria], and look at the soldiers – we understand no borders,” one fighter said in English. A caption said he was Abu Muthanna al-Yemeni from Britain.
“We have participated in battles in Sham, and we will go to Iraq in a few days, and we will fight there, Allah permitting, and come back, and we will even go to Jordan and Lebanon, with no problems.”
The other militants were identified as Abu Bara’ al-Hindi and Abu Dujana al-Hindi, also from Britain, and Abu Yahya al-Shami and Abu Nour al-Iraqi, both from Australia.