JAKARTA: The Batam terrorist cell accused of planning to fire a rocket at Marina Bay had allegedly tried to help two Uighurs flee to Indonesia from Malaysia in an operation also involving a Malaysian militant cell.
Gigih Rahmat Dewa, the alleged leader of the Batam-based Katibah Gonggong Rebus terror cell, received US$3,900 (S$5,480) from a Muslim separatist group in Xinjiang, China, to help the duo, a police source told The Straits Times yesterday.
Gigih, now standing trial in a Jakarta court for planning the Singapore attack, harbouring militants and funding terror activities, had received US$2,000 and US$1,900 in October 2015 through the Western Union wire transfer service.
The two Uighurs were with the East Turkestan Islamic Movement founded by militant Uighurs, the ethnic Muslims of Xinjiang.
Gigih was one of the five members of the Katibah Gongong Rebus terror cell arrested by Indonesian police on Aug 5 last year for allegedly planning to hit Singapore's Marina Bay with a rocket.
Speaking to ST at a courthouse on March 8, Gigih said there was no such plan.But the police source told ST yesterday that Telegram mobile message chats on Oct 23, 2015, between Gigih and Bachrun Naim, a notorious Indonesian militant, provided proof of the planned attack.
They discussed the attack and said it would rely on an expert team to be sent from Syria to Batam.
Gigih's group had also played a role in facilitating the travel of militants to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or to Poso, Sulawesi, to join Indonesian fighters.
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"In Indonesia, Poso was the only place where militants were openly fighting the authorities. Poso was considered as the militants' jihad battle field," Mr Adhe Bhakti, a researcher at the Centre for Radicalism & Deradicalisation Study, told ST.
For those going to Syria, the Batam cell would arrange a trip to Singapore for them to get immigration stamps.
Passports with a Singapore immigration stamp would arouse less suspicion when militants cross over to Syria from Turkey, the police source said.
But the two Uighurs, Halide Tuerxun and Nur Mehmet Abdulla Cuma - who later adopted the Indonesian names Doni Sanjaya and Fariz Kusuma alias Ali, respectively - did not travel to Singapore.
Bachrun had asked Gigih to help the duo, said the police source.
On Sept 29, 2015, Gigih was added to a Telegram chat group created to help link the two Uighurs up with Indonesian ISIS militants.
The group, which included several Malayasia-based ISIS militants who call themselves Selatan Semenanjung Malaya, arranged for the Uighurs to go from Kuala Lumpur to Batam via Negeri Sembilan and Johor Baru.
From Johor Baru, the Uighurs reached Batam by boat in October 2015. The trip cost the duo 12 million rupiah (S$1,260), which was partly paid by Gigih.
The two Uighurs were later arrested separately in police raids. Ali, a would-be suicide bomber in a foiled attack in Indonesia, was arrested late last year in Bekasi, West Java. He was tried in Jakarta and sentenced to six years' jail.
Doni was arrested in Batam in May last year and deported.
This article by The Straits Times was published in The New Paper, a free newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.