No welcome home for ‘terrorist virus’


Jakarta: The government has decided not to repatriate Indonesian sympathisers of the Islamic State (IS) movement who are currently outside the country, saying that it would prioritise the safety of the hundreds of millions of Indonesians at home against what a minister described as a “virus”.

The decision came after Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD met other relevant authorities, such as the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Law and Human Rights Ministry, earlier on Tuesday, before presenting options to President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in a closed-door Cabinet meeting later that day.

“The government and the state have to ensure that the 267 million people in Indonesia are safe from the threat of terrorism. If these terrorist fighters come back they could become a new terrorist virus that threatened those 267 million people,” Mahfud said after the meeting at Bogor Palace in West Java.

“There are no plans by the government to bring them home, the government will not repatriate the FTFs (foreign terrorist fighters) to Indonesia.”

Some 689 Indonesians have been identified as IS sympathisers in Syria and Turkey, as well as other countries, Mahfud said, citing data from the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency, with 228 people still holding identification as Indonesian citizens while others did not have documents to prove their citizenship. Meanwhile, other Indonesian authorities have suggested that most Indonesian IS sympathisers are women and children.

Mahfud said the government would nevertheless collect data about the numbers and identities of the citizens who had allegedly joined IS and that young children might be repatriated, depending on their circumstances.

“Children under 10 will be considered on a case-by-case basis: for example, if they have parents there or not,” he said.

The decision on Tuesday also came after the government, represented by Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi, scrambled to get input from Indonesia’s largest Muslim group Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).

NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj said his organisation was of the opinion that the repatriation of the former combatants did not reflect what the Quran said.

He said NU told the government through Retno that it “rejects the repatriation of the former IS combatants and sympathisers”. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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