Malang, East Java. An estimated 300 Indonesians have joined the Islamic State militant group fighting in Syria and Iraq, an intelligence official revealed on Wednesday.
The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) said local sympathizers of the group known as ISIS or ISIL were recruiting Indonesian men between the ages of 17 and 25 years, indoctrinating them and paying for them to fly to Syria via Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.
“We’ve recorded some 300 Indonesians who have joined ISIS, the last batch of whom left from Lamongan district [in East Java],” Wawan Purwanto, a member of the BNPT’s board of advisers, said at a seminar at Maulana Malik Ibrahim Islamic State University in Malang, East Java.
He said the organizers of the recruitment drive were gathering funds of up to $1,500 to send each recruit to Syria, where they would get “special training” by the militant group. Before leaving Indonesia, though, the recruits were “brainwashed” by local clerics sympathetic to the Islamic State’s cause.
“This is a very dangerous practice and it needs to be dealt with early on by educating Indonesians, particularly university students,” about the dangers of joining Islamic State, Wawan said.
However, he conceded that the number of Indonesians joining the group would continue to rise, and called on student bodies and alumni organizations to help in spreading awareness among university students about the risks.
Wawan said the fact that most of the recruits were university students or university-aged indicated that despite their advanced education, they were still under the sway of clerics preaching a hard-line version of Islam.
“It’s important to raise proper awareness to fortify our citizens against hard-line precepts and terrorism,” he said.
A report released in September by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict concluded that while most Indonesians do not approve of the Islamic State or its methods for establishing a caliphate in the Middle East, hard-line Islamic groups in the country are more sympathetic.
“The overall capacity of Indonesian extremists remains low, but their commitment to ISIS could prove deadly,” said IPAC director Sidney Jones. “ISIS has also attracted the support of almost all the would-be terrorists still committed to waging jihad on Indonesian soil.”