Channel NewsAsia

Indonesia clamps down on ISIS activities

Indonesian authorities are intensifying their efforts to clamp down on the activities of an Islamist group calling itself the Islamic State. Formerly known as ISIS, the group has been banned by the government. 

JAKARTA: Indonesian authorities are intensifying their efforts to clamp down on the activities of an Islamist group calling itself the Islamic State. Formerly known as ISIS, the group has been banned by the government but the country's counterterrorism agency said Indonesians are still being lured into extremist activities.

Bachrumsyah aka Abu Muhammad al-Indonesi, the man seen as the ringleader of ISIS in Indonesia, has been calling for new recruits to take up arms. Police have identified him as a terrorist fugitive and a target for arrest. But it is unclear if his whereabouts is known to authorities.

It is believed that more than 50 Indonesians have joined ISIS guerrillas in Iraq and Syria, and more are pledging their allegiance to the movement. In response, police have intensified their investigations. Police said it is vital to prevent radical thoughts from turning into terrorist activities.

Boy Rafli Amar, National Police spokesman, said: "They have not reached a point where they are carrying out violent activities like the ISIS group in Iraq and Syria. But it could potentially lead to those activities. That's why more serious measures are needed to prevent radical thoughts from turning into terrorist activities."

Indonesia's top Muslim clerical body, the Ulema Council, has issued a call warning Muslims not to join the rebel group. And, the military has vowed to take tough action against group members attempting treason.

Currently foreign fighting is not criminalised but authorities have warned that those who join ISIS could in the future lose their citizenship and be charged under the Criminal Code. But the head of Indonesia's counterterrorism agency said law enforcers are not doing enough to deter Indonesians.

Ansyaad Mbai, Head of National Counterterrorism Agency, said: "With the emergence of the ISIS movement here, it is like a breath of fresh air for local terrorist groups who share the same ideology as ISIS. It serves as an impetus for them especially when they do not see any real consequences. It's almost to the point of neglect."

Meanwhile law experts said freedom of expression and assembly must be respected in any attempt to crack down on extremism in Indonesia.