SINGAPORE: Four Indonesians, said to be followers of a leading extremist cleric, have been deported from Singapore while allegedly en route to Syria.
The quartet, aged between 15 and 49, were deported through Indonesia’s Batam island on Sunday (Feb 21) after Singapore authorities arrested them, reported Merdeka.com. Police and officers from the counter-terrorism squad picked up the group at Batam Centre International Port, according to the Jakarta Globe.
Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed the four men entered Singapore from Batam via ferry, before leaving for Johor. They spent a few hours there before being arrested at the border checkpoint Woodlands as they attempted to re-enter Singapore.
After questioning the men, Indonesian officials "suspected that these four Indonesians were heading to Syria", police spokesman Agus Rianto told AFP. "We are now investigating the case to find out more."
The group has been sent to Jakarta and they are being questioned by the country's counter-terrorism unit.
Sources close to the Indonesian Police said the quartet are members of Jamaah Anshorut Daulah - one of three Indonesian radical groups supporting the Islamic State group.
The four are believed to be followers of Aman Abdurrahman, a radical Indonesian ideologue who is currently in jail for terrorism. Aman Abdurrahman is known as one of the most influential hardline clerics in Indonesia today. He had allegedly inspired hundreds of Indonesians to join Islamic State militants.
The quartet are allegedly from his religious boarding school in Ciamis, West Java, with two of them reportedly brothers.
The brothers, 15-year-old Muhamad Mufid Murtadho and 23-year-old Mukhlis Khoirur Rofiq, are from the West Java city of Bekasi, while Untung Sugema Mardjuk and Risno were born in Jakarta and Purbalingga, Central Java respectively, reported Merdeka.com.
Senior officer Helmi Santika from the Barelang Police said they will work with the national counter-terrorism squad in the investigations. "It is clear that the four had intended to reach Syria. They confessed as a result of interrogation by the Singapore immigration," he told Merdeka.com.
Singapore's Ministry of Affairs also confirmed the deportation.
“MHA confirms that four Indonesians were deported to Indonesia after investigations revealed that they had plans to make their way to Syria to fight for ISIS,” a spokesman for the Home Affairs Ministry told TODAY. “Singapore authorities informed their Indonesian counterparts before the deportation.”
Last week, Indonesian police also arrested about 30 suspected extremists who were allegedly conducting military-style training on a remote mountain in Java island.
An estimated 500 Indonesians have joined IS to fight in Syria, and about 100 of them are thought to have returned home.