50 Indonesian Militants Join Syria War

Officials Fear Involvement Could Boost Jemaah Islamiyah

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry has reported that at least 50 Indonesian fighters have gone to Syria to join al-Qaeda and other Islamist factions in the rebellion.

It’s not a huge number, to be sure, but it’s the same problem nations around the world are facing, as dozens and sometimes hundreds of their citizens have shown up on the ground in Syria, making contacts with some of the biggest and most aggressive militant factions in the world.

The going there isn’t the problem, Indonesian officials noted it’s easy for anyone to hop a flight to Turkey and sneak across the border. The concern is what happens when these fighters return home after the war with all this new training and all these new contacts.

It’s not a big mystery in Indonesia, who has seen this before. Their domestic militant faction, Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) got boosts in the past from sending fighters abroad to Soviet-era Afghanistan, to the Philippines, and to Bosnia. They say JI helped the fighters in question go to Syria.

Though JI is a long-standing problem for the Indonesian government, the group has lost a lot of its influence in recent years. The fear is that these fighters could give them some fresh ties with international factions and revitalize them.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.