There are no direct links between Indonesian militants and the leadership of IS in Syria, an Indonesian terrorism expert said on Tuesday.
Taufik Andrie, executive director of the Institute for International Peace Building in Jakarta, was speaking during a meeting about changes in the global terrorism network and the impact those changes have had on extremism in Indonesia.
He said that attacks by self-proclaimed IS-affiliated militants in Indonesia “were not always related to IS, or even to Bahrun Naim or Aman Abdurrahman,” referencing an Indonesian militant believed to be fighting for IS in Syria and a convicted radical cleric who led an IS-affiliated network from his prison cell.
“There has never been a direct link between IS in Syria with those who claimed to be affiliated with the group here,” Andrie said. “Most of those so-called acknowledgements were self-proclaimed.
“If we follow the money trail, there has been little financial support coming in from Syria to Indonesia for terrorism activities,” he said.
However, Andrie said that remnants of the Southeast Asian militant network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) — outlawed in Indonesia since 2008 — still remain, with a clear organizational structure and key figures implementing their strategies.
Nasir Abbas, a former militant who is now known as a de-radicalization activist, said the group now operates anonymously, but still works toward the same goals using a mixture of preaching and violence.
“They are still on the move, but they don’t put a name on their organization. They use a strategy, unlike other militants who think that they are waging war by being lone wolves,” said Abbas, adding that other militant groups were now emulating JI by putting a solid structure in place.
“They would try to settle in a small region and strengthen their base, preaching to the locals about their intention to establish a caliphate and making the locals believe in their propaganda,” he explained.
Abbas said the conflict-torn southern Philippines remains the go-to destination for Southeast Asian militants returning to the region after joining IS in the Middle East. He claimed they pass through the porous sea and land borders from Indonesia’s North Kalimantan province to Malaysia’s Sabah state before entering the Philippines in Basilan.
“It’s the preferred trail because there is a chain of small islands in the Sulu Sea and there are a lot of separatist groups there, which means there is an abundant supply of guns and ammunition,” he said.
Nava Nuraniyah, an analyst at the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) in Jakarta, said there has been little change in the role of women in extremist groups, particularly in Indonesian and Filipino organizations.
“Very few of them have become combatants. When they do, the reason is usually self-empowerment,” she said.
“But most of them play the role of financier, treasurer and recruiter. They manage the money because they are housewives who are also entrepreneurs,” she explained.
This article first appeared in Arab News