Authorities trying to talk Aceh rebels out of joining Islamic State

Authorities are trying to dissuade former combatants of Free Aceh Movements (GAM) from their desire to join the Islamic State group, Indonesia’s counter-terrorism chief has said.

Local media reported this week that Fakhruddin Bin Kaseem also known as Din Robot, a former commander of the now-defunct separatist group and dozens of his comrades have expressed willingness to join Islamic State for economic reasons.

“It’s their rights, but we are trying to find a solution, through dialogue to give them understanding,” Saud Usman Nasution, chief of the National Counter-Terrorism Agency, said Wednesday.

He was speaking at the launch of books on de-radicalisation written by an Egyptian scholar, Abdul Mon’em Moneb, a reformed Muslim radical.

The former separatists have reportedly complained about economic hardships and a widening social and economic gap among GAM veterans.

“Our legal basis is quite weak [to deal with] who join ISIS. So we are strengthening prevention efforts through dialogue to make people understand [about ISIS],” Saud said.

According to the 2003 law on counter-terrorism, a person can only be charged if there is material evidence that he is planning to carry out a terrorist attack.

The government and GAM rebels signed a peace agreement in 2005, ending decades of conflict that claimed an estimated 15,000 people, mostly civilians.

Saud refused to blame the former combatants’ intention to join IS on the government’s failure to reintegrate them to society. But he acknowledged that some of the former guerrillas had complained that their lives had not improved since laying down their weapons.

“The problem is their welfare and nothing else. It is an individual matter and depends on the mindset. Some of them have succeeded to reintegrate,” Saud said.

Other former comrades have risen to become the province’s top bureaucrats and members of the local elite, including Governor Zaini Abdullah and his deputy Muzakkir Manaf. Authorities say about 300-500 Indonesians have joined Islamic State and at least three are known to have died in combat, including a police officer from Jambi province identified as Syahputra.

Kamaruddin, a deputy chairman of Aceh Party comprised of former GAM combatants, brushed aside the issue, saying that as an ex guerrilla, it would be very difficult for Fakhruddin go to Syria.

“On behalf [former] combatants, what is reported in newspapers in Aceh is a slander. There is no way Din Robot is going to join ISIS. It’s not as easy as he says,” Kamaruddin told CNN Indonesia Tuesday.

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