Indonesia turns to China as ethnic Uighurs join would-be jihadis
authorities are working with their counterparts in China to stem a flow of
ethnic Uighur militants seeking to join Islamist jihadists in the world's most
populous Muslim country, Indonesia.
amid mounting concern in Indonesia about possible attacks by sympathisers of
the Islamic State group and follows the arrest of 13 men across the island of
Java, including a Muslim Uighur with a suicide-bomb vest.
among Indonesian militant networks of Uighurs, who come from the Xinjiang
region in far-western China, is likely to add to Beijing's concerns that exiles
will return to their homeland as experienced and trained jihadists.
Islamist militants and separatists operate in energy-rich Xinjiang on the
borders of central Asia, where violence has killed hundreds in recent years.
say much of the unrest can be traced back to frustration at controls over the
Uighurs' culture and religion, and that most of those who leave are only
fleeing repression not seeking to wage jihad. China denies repressing rights.
and human trafficking networks helped them travel via Myanmar, Thailand and
Malaysia to Santoso's hideout in an equatorial jungle of eastern Indonesia.
security analysts believe a larger threat is emerging across the populous
island of Java as networks of support for Islamic State grow.
been largely successful in disrupting domestic militant cells since the bombing
of two nightclubs on the resort island of Bali in 2002, and sporadic attacks
have been mainly targeted at the police.
is now worried that the influence of Islamic State, whose fighters hold swathes
of territory in Syria and Iraq, could bring a return of jihadi violence and
strikes against foreigners and soft targets.
believe there are more than 1,000 Islamic State supporters in Indonesia, and
say that between 100 and 300 have returned from Syria, though this includes
women and children.
that monitoring of radical groups had revealed plans to launch attacks on
Christmas Eve and around the New Year holiday but the situation was now under
control."They cannot attack like in the Middle East or Europe because we
anticipate before they attack. We monitor their activities every day," he
said. "Their capability has not increased because their personnel is limited,
their funding is limited and explosives are limited."Police spokesman
Suharsono said the Uighur arrested just outside Jakarta was part of an Islamic
State-affiliated group based in the Central Java city of Solo.Officials
declined to comment on media reports that two other Uighurs from the same group
were on the run, but they did confirm that three Uighurs were with Santoso.Four
others were sentenced last year to six years in prison for conspiring with
Todd Elliott, a
Jakarta-based terrorism analyst for Concord Consulting, said many Uighurs will
see Indonesia as more accessible than Turkey or Syria and are exploiting
entrenched smuggling and human-trafficking networks to travel around the region
undetected."I am sure returning Uighur fighters are a serious concern of
the Chinese government," he said, adding that Islamic State's hardline
ideology has gained traction among small minorities in both Xinjiang and
Indonesia, binding them closer together. (Additional reporting by Michael
Martina in BEIJING; Writing by John Chalmers; Editing by Robert Birsel)