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Militant suspects held in Indonesia pledged Islamic State loyalty


JAKARTA (Reuters – Indonesian national police Tuesday said that a number of people arrested as suspected extremists in Indonesia over the weekend made promises of loyalty through an instant messaging app.

The elite Densus 88 counter-terrorism taskforce from Indonesia arrested two dozen suspects in raids that took place on Saturday. Further interviews revealed that some of the men had made bayat (or a promise of allegiance) to Abu al-Hassan al-hashemi al-Quraishi.

Ahmad Ramadhan, spokesperson for the national police, said that 22 suspects were held in Sulawesi central, an area known for its history of extremism and sectarian violence, and they were connected to the East Indonesia Mujahideen network (MIT).

He stated that the two men had helped MIT with ammunition and hiding their activities. Two other arrests were made in Kalimantan and Java.

He said that the members performed bayat through reading messages on WhatsApp Messenger accounts.

According to Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based security specialist, around 1,100 Indonesian men, women, and children fled Indonesia in order to join Islamic State during the peak of group control over territory in Syria, Iraq and other countries, Jones estimates.

Indonesia is the largest nation with a Muslim majority. In 2002, two nightclubs in Bali were targeted and bombed. This attack killed 202 mostly tourists.

Jemaah Islamiyah was behind the attacks. Later, they carried out bombings in Jakarta.

Analysts believe that the risk of terrorist attacks has diminished since then. While arrests of suspected extremists have taken place, it is rare to see them pledge allegiance towards Islamic State.