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Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State


FILE - A Muslim woman releases a dove as a symbol of peace during a rally against the Islamic State group in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 5, 2014.

FILE - A Muslim woman releases a dove as a symbol of peace during a rally against the Islamic State group in Jakarta, Indonesia, Sept. 5, 2014.


Indonesia estimates that more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State militants. That would represent an increase of 50 since last month.

Wawan Purwanto is with the Anti-Terrorism Management Agency. He says it is hard for the Indonesian government to keep exact numbers.

He says the information is always changing, and that individuals are identified differently from the name or names they are using. As a result, it takes a lot of time to identify who joined the militants.

But he says that most of the Indonesian fighters do not come directly from their homeland, but from other countries where they may be working.

He says the increasing numbers of citizens who went to fight with the Islamic State were not directly from Indonesia. He says they are instead long-time residents of Egypt and Yemen. He says they went directly to Syria and Iraq.

Wawan Purwanto adds that most have been signed up by Islamic State supporters in Indonesia. He said those activists have been identified as extremists.

The head of the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia says he is saddened Indonesian youths could be easily persuaded to join the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL or ISIS.

Nahdatul Ulama leader Said Aqil Siradj says he is concerned that the fighters could spread extremism when they return home. He fears a repeat of what happened to those blamed for the 2002 bombing in Bali. He wants the government to study the Islamic State fighters closely when they return home.

Indonesia has said it is planning to cancel the citizenships of those who have joined the militant group. The Indonesian government banned the group in August and moved against known members.

Indonesia has more Muslims than any other country in the world. But officials say the Islamic State rejects Indonesia’s pluralist state ideology, which is called Pancasila.

I’m Bob Doughty.

This report was based on a story from VOA reporter Ahadian Utama. George Grow wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.

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Words in This Story

estimates - v. to form an opinion about a value, size or amount using less than complete information

militants - n. people active in trying to cause political change, often by the use of force or violence

government - n. a system of governing; the organization of people that rules a country, city or area

persuaded - v. causing someone to do something by explaining or urging

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