Sons of jihadists flock to Syria

Sons of jihadists flock to Syria

A new generation of Indonesian jihadists seems to have come of age, with the sons of several prominent jihadists leaving for war-torn Syria, lured by the promises of the Islamic State (IS) movement and the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra.

As authorities scramble to identify the identities of Indonesians fighting in Syria, at least four sons of famous terrorists are widely believed to have joined the two groups, in part to preserve their fathers' legacies.

The most prominent is undoubtedly Umar Jundul Haq, 19, the eldest child of the late Imam Samudra, who was convicted of masterminding the first Bali bombing in late 2002 that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. Imam, born Abdul Aziz, was executed along with Amrozi and Ali Gufron in late 2008 for his role in the bombing.

"The information that we received confirmed that he [Umar] has joined IS in Syria. However, we cannot disclose the time of his joining as it is still classified," National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Anton Charliyan told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

Anton said the police's intelligence officers and its counterterrorism unit, Densus 88, were closely monitoring Umar's actions.

"We are constantly monitoring his moves," he said.

Aside from Umar, Imam has three other children: Salsabila, Tasniem and Iyas Jaisy Muhammad.

Based on information gathered by the Post, Imam's wife, Zakiyah Darajat, is currently living with Tasniem and Iyas in Serang and Cilegon, Banten, while Salsabila is enrolled in an Islamic boarding school in Yogyakarta.

"The last time I met Imam's children was in December of last year. But I did not see Umar then," Imam's mother, Embay Badriah, told the Post on Friday. "Maybe he has grown up and needs privacy," she said.

Counterterrorism expert Al Chaidar said children of convicted terrorists in Indonesia could be divided into two camps - those supporting IS and those supporting al-Nusra.

"Imam Samudra's son is not the only one on the path. Actually, there are many others who continue to uphold their fathers' legacies," Al Chaidar said.

Abu Jibril, a former recruiter for terrorist group Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) has several sons that have joined al-Nusra in Idlib, Syria. One of them, Ridwan, was recently killed in Syria, which Abu Jibril himself has confirmed.

Another JI member, Mukhliansyah, has a son fighting for al-Nusra in Aleppo, Syria, according to Al Chaidar.

Kang Jaja, the killed leader of the Banten Ring terrorist network who played a role in the bombing of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in 2004, has a son fighting with IS in Syria.

Terrorist convicts Aman Abdurrahman and Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, through the recently formed group, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), have actively recruited for IS.

In response, Ba'asyir's sons, Abdul "Iim" Rohim and Rosyid Ridho, as well as his former confidant, Achwan, broke away to form their own jihadist group, called Jamaah Ansharusy Syariah (JAS), in the middle of last year to recruit for al-Nusra.

In a recent report, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) revealed that as the rift between IS and al-Nusra in Iraq and Syria deepened in late 2013, many imprisoned jihadists in Indonesia began choosing sides, with followers of Aman Abdurrahman generally supporting IS and those affiliated with JI generally backing al-Nusra.

"The former tends to also support violent jihad in Indonesia, while JI since 2007 has rejected violence at home, saying it is counterproductive," the report said.

Former chairman of the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT), Ansyaad Mbai, said the zeal with which the children of prominent terrorists were flocking to Syria to fight was no surprise, as they sought "shortcuts to enter heaven".

"IS in Syria is the most ideal channel for them to fight, as they think they are fighting for the real thing; a caliphate," said Ansyaad.

Many fear that once the children return to Indonesia, they will lead and help train fellow jihadists to carry out terrorist activities.

Ansyad said that though that concern was valid, most Indonesian jihadists fighting in Syria had pledged never to return to Indonesia. "The 'second generation', or whatever you call it, will not pose as threat if they are committed to their belief of not returning to Indonesia and dying for what they claim is the death of a true jihadist."

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