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Indonesia Battles Islamic State Recruitment

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 says it is continuing its efforts to prevent more of its citizens from joining the Islamic State militants.

An official at the Terrorism Management National Agency, Wawan Purwanto, told VOA that 300 citizens had joined the radical group so far, with 60 reported dead. He said their ages ranged from 17 to 25 and that they were from various parts of Indonesia.

He said they were all recruited by IS sympathizers in Indonesia who have been categorized as radicals.

According to Wawan, Indonesian recruits who left for Syria received allowances of $1,500 for accommodations and transportation.

"Before their departures from ... Surabaya, they already had complete travel documents," he said. "And in Malaysia, someone made all the needed arrangements for them to go to Turkey. Then in Istanbul, they began their training in the field, such as recognizing who the enemies are and learning about the weather condition of the country."

Wawan added that all had undergone military training by radical groups that have had fighting experience in Afghanistan and the Philippines.

He said, however, it is very difficult to stop recruits from leaving the country without help from schools and families.

"There are efforts of early detection to prevent them from going abroad," Wawan said. "Since they don't have criminal records, they are free to go anywhere, because not everyone can be blocked from their flight departure. Persuasions are being made to their family or relatives to discourage the would-be terrorists from going to Istanbul."

Wawan said the involvement of so many students and university alumni in terrorist networks shows that religious studies in Indonesia are lacking.

Because of that, he said, his agency is taking an educational approach by conducting a road show across Indonesia using Islamic teachers and security officers from the Middle East, who can inform the students of the basic concepts of jihad and describe the real conditions in those countries.

Indonesia has said it is planning to revoke the citizenships of those who have joined IS. Jakarta banned the group in August and moved against known members. Officials have said the radical group contradicts Indonesia’s pluralist state ideology, which is called Pancasila.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Indonesian Service.