INDONESIA - The National Police have stepped up operations against supporters of the Islamic State (IS) movement with the arrest of three men who recently returned from war-torn Syria.
The three, all arrested in Malang, East Java, on Wednesday, are identified as Ahmad Junaedi, Helmi Muhammad Alamudi and Abdul Hakim Munabari, according to East Java Police chief Insp. Gen. Anas Yusuf.
"They had travelled to Syria with Salim Mubarok Attamimi, known also as Abu Jandal al Yemeni al Indonesi," said Anas on Thursday.
Abu Jandal is an IS supporter from Indonesia who appeared on a YouTube video in which he made threats against the Indonesian Military (TNI) and several Muslim organisation in Indonesia, he added.
While Anas has provided few details on the role of the three detainees, a senior counterterrorism officer with the National Police told The Jakarta Post that they had once been actively engaged in the fighting with IS in Syria.
"The [National Police counterterrorism squad] Densus 88 are still investigating the case, including how Junaedi could escape from IS in Syria and return to Indonesia," the senior officer said, adding that Junaedi spent six months in Syria to fight alongside IS.
Junaedi allegedly left IS after learning that he would not get all the incentives and benefits that had been promised in the group's social media messages.
"Junaedi found nothing in Syria and he felt that the IS recruiters had lied to him. These are our initial results from the investigation," the source said.
A number of Indonesian jihadists intended to join IS in Iraq and Syria because they were attracted by its extreme ideology, while others were lured by the promise of financial gain. The recruiters promise that they will receive salaries and accommodations provided by the IS.
Responding to reports that some IS fighters had returned to Indonesia, Home Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said the government was weighing the option of revoking the citizenship of Indonesians who travelled abroad to join militant groups such as IS.
"We have to think about this option very carefully because we still have the obligation to defend our citizens abroad unless it is absolutely clear [that they have joined IS]," he said on Thursday after a meeting at the Attorney General's Office in South Jakarta.
Tjahjo said that although there were concerns that more and more Indonesians traveling to the Middle East intended to join the IS movement, there were still many Indonesians who travelled there for work or to conduct pilgrimages.
"We can't exactly ban people from conducting pilgrimages because they travel through different routes. We can't prevent them; there is absolutely no basis for it," he said.
Tjahjo said that what the authorities could do is keep an eye on would-be pilgrims who only buy one-way tickets to the Middle East.
Also, Tjahjo suggested that President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo could issue a government regulation in lieu of law (Perppu) or amend the 2003 Terrorism Law to allow the detention of individuals suspected of conducting "suspicious activities" before they embark on a journey to countries like Syria or Iraq.
"That way we could ask why they are selling their houses and all their belongings if they are only going to go on pilgrimages. We can ask about their motivations," he said.
Separately, the police revealed that the recent bomb attack on the second floor of the ITC Depok shopping centre last month was not an ordinary bomb, as it contained chemical compounds and was the first chemical bomb set off in Indonesia.
Former chief of Densus 88 Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian said that there had been a technical error in the detonation of the bomb, resulting in only two of its four packages exploding.
"If it had been put in the air-conditioning system you can imagine the impact," Tito said as quoted by several foreign media.
A bomb exploded in a men's bathroom in a children's play area on the second floor of ITC Depok shopping centre on Feb. 24. No casualties were reported in the explosion.
"ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] members tend to use deadly chemical materials to conduct their terrorism, so we can guess that the bombing of ITC Depok was carried out by a former Syrian jihadist. This is the first chemical bomb in our country," terrorist expert Solahuddin told the Post.