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Zakir Hussain
Friday, Jun 20, 2014

Asia

Analysts fear ISIL victories may inspire Indonesian hardliners

The Straits Times | Zakir Hussain | Friday, Jun 20, 2014

A screengrab from a video showing Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters, one of whom claims to be a former Indonesian soldier, urging Indonesians to join the fight.

As militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) captured key cities in Iraq and closed in on Baghdad in recent days, their victories were translated into Bahasa Indonesia by sympathisers almost immediately and posted on social media and radical websites, together with photos and triumphal commentary.

This has raised concern among analysts and the authorities that ISIL's victories could inspire hardliners as well as win new recruits to head to the latest battlegrounds in the Middle East.

"The latest developments in Iraq are giving a new resolve to Indonesian militants," analyst Robi Sugara of the Barometer Institute told The Straits Times. "They believe it won't be long before mujahideen (holy warriors) will win this battle and spread it further afield, including in Asia."

Indonesia's National Counter- Terrorism Agency head Ansyaad Mbai estimated that at least 50 Indonesians have made their way to civil war-ravaged Syria and some of them have crossed over to Iraq.

And while it is hard to stop them from leaving, the real worry comes when they return home with skills that could be used for destructive ends, he said.

The authorities in Indonesia have largely kept militants in check and curbed major attacks in recent years. But the resurgence of militant successes in the Middle East and the fact that these are gaining some, if limited, traction here could make stemming radicalisation more challenging.

Syria and Iraq are being seen as battlegrounds for those who want to set up an Islamic state and revive a global caliphate, just as Afghanistan was, and where an earlier generation of Indonesian militants joined fighters from other parts of the world in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of these Afghan alumni became part of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) regional terror network behind the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202.

ISIL is more commonly known by its other abbreviation ISIS here. A number of hardline groups in some cities have declared support for it and pledged allegiance to its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi since February. They also held a rally in Jakarta in March.

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