Indonesia’s counter-terrorism agency says the nation’s young radicals are continuing to be drawn to the southern Philippines with fighting in Marawi now in its third month.
In an interview with the ABC, a senior official from the counter-terrorism body known as the BNPT said some Indonesians were arrested trying to make it to Marawi, some returned home and others had been killed.
The continuing battle to take back the city was focused on the political minds of the region, as Indonesia warned the Islamic State (IS) group could pose a threat elsewhere, like Myanmar.
Despite barely any militants thought to be left, the Philippines military had still not taken back Marawi — and there were rising fears other cities could be at risk.
The death toll in Marawi was reportedly nearing 700, among them more than 500 IS-linked militants, as well as hundreds of thousands of residents reported to have been displaced.
Inspector-General Hamidin, deputy of International Cooperation at BNPT, said the threat across the water to Indonesia’s north meant a greater threat at home.
“We can see that they keep losing,” he said.
“There has been 300 hostages in the mosques and they can’t save anyone so far.”
The Inspector-General said the problem for Indonesia was not the potential for a similar takeover on Indonesian soil, but that young radical men wanted to join the fighting.
“For those who have returned we don’t have the number yet, but we are sure that several people went there,” he said.
“That’s the problem for Indonesia — Indonesia won’t be used as a base, but Indonesia will be used as a place for recruitment.”
There were believed to be about 20 Indonesians fighting in the southern Philippines, but that number was not been confirmed by the Government.
‘We need to keep an eye on Myanmar’
Hamidin said the current threat for Indonesia came from the Sulu sea, where trilateral navy patrols were already underway in the Indonesian, Philippines and Malaysian border areas.
But he warned attentions should also be on the Andaman sea, and potential Islamic State infiltration in known groups in Myanmar.
“Myanmar has a potential to be a future threat,” he said.
He said Indonesia should not confirm any of its citizens had been killed in the fighting in the Philippines until DNA testing had been done.