ISIS might have pocketed another big ally with Boko Haram pledging allegiance last week, but one Southeast Asian country has long struggled with its own citizens leaving to fight for the militant group. Indonesian officials said Friday that up to 32 Indonesians trying to join ISIS were detained or are missing in Turkey. The events are the latest reminder of ISIS' strong ability to attract foreigners to join their ranks.
Turkish authorities said one group of 16 Indonesians, made up of mostly women and children, were arrested as they tried to cross into Syria from Gaziantep, a Southeastern city in Turkey that sits just north of the Syrian city Aleppo. Border crossings around Aleppo had been shut down since Monday due to increased fighting between insurgents and the Syrian government. Those with Syrian passports are allowed to return to their country.
Last week, a separate group of 16 Indonesians went missing from a tour group in Turkey and has yet to be found. Turkey has not confirmed whether the group members are still within its borders or have crossed into its Southern neighbor. The Indonesian government will send a team to Turkey to investigate the situation and work with Turkish security forces.
Indonesia has seen a resurgence of radical ideology in its country, which holds the world's largest Muslim population with 203 million people practicing the Islamic faith.
Saud Usman Nasution, Indonesia's head of counterterrorism, said during a Muslim group meeting that an estimated 514 Indonesians have gone to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS. The number of ISIS followers who left Indonesia jumped from 86 in June to 264 in October, he said.
Indonesia is a staunch opponent against ISIS. In August, the Indonesian government announced it would ban people from endorsing ISIS and prohibit people from posting YouTube videos that supported the militants. The country has also not been immune to ISIS threats; ISIS took to Facebook last August to threaten demolishing an Indonesian Buddhist temple.
But Indonesia isn't the only country struggling to keep citizens from picking up arms with ISIS. CNN reported that an Australian teen might be behind a Iraq suicide attack that was carried out this week on behalf of ISIS. Three New York men attempting to join the militant group were indicted on terrorism charges earlier this month. Additionally, three British girls under the age of 16 left the UK in February and are now believed to be with ISIS militants in the Middle East.
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