Two Indonesian pilots radicalised by ISIS: Report

Two Indonesian pilots radicalised by ISIS: Report
Tommy Abu Alfatih worked at Garuda Indonesia and as a flight instructor before joining Premiair.
PHOTO: Facebook

Two Indonesian pilots are believed to have been radicalised by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and could pose a security threat, a leaked intelligence document from the Australian police has revealed.

The document, released by investigative website The Intercept, was part of an intelligence report dated March 18 but leaked only now.

In it, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) highlighted two pilots - one with AirAsia Indonesia and the other with Indonesian chartered flight company Premiair - as showing signs of radicalisation based on surveillance of their social media accounts and their affiliation to a suspected militant.

"Both appear to be influenced by pro-(ISIS) elements, including extremist online propaganda by well-known radical Indonesia outlets and a suspected Indonesian foreign fighter who is likely to be in either Syria or Iraq," read an excerpt from the report.

The leaked report has raised renewed concerns over ISIS' influence in Indonesia and the country's counter-terrorism efforts.

Indonesia has eradicated major terrorist networks like the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiah in the last decade. But it is now grappling with a small radical fringe.

More than 500 Indonesians are believed to have joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq, although some think the figure could be higher.

One of the pilots identified in the report, Ridwan Agustin, had listed his employment details online, including graduating from the AirAsia academy in 2010.

The report notes that on March 17 this year, he used another Facebook account in which he listed his current city as Raqqa, Syria, an ISIS stronghold.

The other pilot, Tommy Abu Alfatih alias Tomi Hendratno, graduated from the Indonesian Flight School in 1999 and worked as a pilot with the navy. He worked at Garuda Indonesia and as a flight instructor before joining Premiair.

His website showed re-posts of several pro-ISIS propaganda posts.

Someone who identified himself as one of the pilots has refuted the allegations in a statement reported in detik.com, denying any links with ISIS.

Police chief Badrodin Haiti said that the authorities have not established any link between the pilots and ISIS but are investigating.

Both pilots are believed to have left their companies.

Premiair was uncontactable but AirAsia Indonesia confirmed that Ridwan and his wife used to be employees with the airline.

Terrorism analysts said the AFP report is legitimate, adding these are the first known Indonesian pilots allegedly radicalised by ISIS.

"This is an indication that the network of pro-ISIS sympathisers is expanding beyond the initial group of radicalised organisations," said Ms Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict.

She added: "People who have been attracted without previous extremist associations and who have skills which could be dangerous if used in a harmful way are of concern."

Terrorism analyst Noor Huda Ismail said that the government has to stop treating ISIS as a terrorist organisation and start countering it as a movement and a community.


This article was first published on July 10, 2015.
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