Skip to main content

Advertisement

Advertisement

Singapore deports four Indonesians suspected of travelling to fight for ISIS

SINGAPORE — Singapore authorities confirmed on Tuesday (Feb 23) the deportation of four Indonesians who were apparently planning to go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State (IS). Confirming reports from Indonesia, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the Indonesian authorities were informed before the four males — the youngest of whom was 15 — were deported.

Singapore deports four Indonesians suspected of travelling to fight for ISIS

The Islamic State logo is depicted on a wall in Grogol, Central Java, in a file photo from 2014. Photo: Jakarta Globe

SINGAPORE — Singapore authorities confirmed on Tuesday (Feb 23) the deportation of four Indonesians who were apparently planning to go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State (IS). Confirming reports from Indonesia, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said the Indonesian authorities were informed before the four males — the youngest of whom was 15 — were deported.

The suspects are from Java and had flown to Singapore from Jakarta a few days ago; they had travelled to Johor before returning to Singapore, The Jakarta Globe reported. They had return tickets to Indonesia via Batam, but had apparently revealed to Singapore authorities during questioning that they were heading to Syria.

According to The Straits Times, the four individuals are Muhammad Mufid Murtadho, Untung Sugema Mardjuk, Mukhlis Koifur Rofiq and Risno, and they are linked to jailed radical cleric Aman Abdurrahman, who is in a Nusakambangan prison.

The MHA did not provide further details on how the four individuals were discovered, but this is not the first time aspiring IS fighters have been halted at Singapore immigration checkpoints. Last November, it was reported that two Indonesian men planning to travel to Syria were denied entry into Singapore at the HarbourFront Ferry Terminal and sent back to Batam.

Batam and the Riau Islands have been linked to terrorist activities, according to security experts. In the 1950s and ’60s, the Riau Islands — which today also include Bintan and Karimun — were used by elements of the Communist Party of Malaya to infiltrate into Singapore, said Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies. In late-2001, Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) explored the possibility of smuggling explosive material into Singapore from Batam, he said.

Convicted terrorist Mas Selamat Kastari, who left Singapore with his family after 13 people linked to the Singapore JI network were arrested in Dec 2001, was arrested in Bintan in Feb 2003.

The latest incident will likely re-focus even greater attention on the need to closely monitor the movement of individuals between the Riau Islands and Singapore, said Assoc Prof Ramakrishna.

It is also important for the Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian authorities to examine what the four individuals were doing in Johor, he said. “My big question, really, is what were these four doing in Johor? Why did they risk passing through Singapore immigration to go to Johor? Is there a support cell of IS in Johor? Let us not forget that this was where Mas Selamat Kastari was recaptured in April 2009. JI moreover had a presence in Johor as well, 15 years ago.”

Although facts about the latest case — such as circumstances that led to the discovery and deportation of the men — have not been made public, Ms Susan Sim, vice-president for Asia of security intelligence firm The Soufan Group, said Singapore would not want to be used as a transit point for anyone trying to join terrorist groups overseas. Indonesian laws do not allow the police to hold aspiring IS fighters deported back to Indonesia unless they used false passports, broke immigration laws or committed other offences, said Ms Sim.

Jakarta is set to pass new laws that will give security agencies greater power to address terrorism and the latest case will likely increase Indonesian authorities’ vigilance, said Dr Mustafa Izzuddin of the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute.

“The capture of the four Indonesian suspects suggests that IS, and terrorism more generally, continue to pose an existential security threat to the region, and in particular to Singapore, which is the smallest state in South-east Asia,” he said. “As such, there is an even greater need to further beef up intelligence gathering and sharing among regional states, because a terrorist attack on one state would have adverse consequences for other states as well, economically, politically and psychologically.”

Read more of the latest in

Advertisement

Popular

Advertisement

Stay in the know. Anytime. Anywhere.

Subscribe to get daily news updates, insights and must reads delivered straight to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, I agree for my personal data to be used to send me TODAY newsletters, promotional offers and for research and analysis.

Aa