JAKARTA - Indonesia says four suspected Islamic militants arrested Saturday are from China's ethnic Uighur minority group and may have ties to the Islamic State group fighting in Syria and Iraq.
The four, who were taken into custody on the island of Sulawesi, are suspected of trying to make contact with wanted Indonesian militant leader Abu Wardah Santoso. They were taken into custody along with three Indonesians suspected of being associates of Santoso.
Authorities originally identified the men as being Turkish. But Indonesian Chief of Police, General Sutarman, says the men entered Indonesia using fake passports.
"The four of them claimed they are from Turkey and traveled to Cambodia by sea. Once they arrived in Cambodia, they went by land to Thailand. In Thailand they were able to get fake passports. With these fake passports, they flew from Thailand to Kuala Lumpur. From Kuala Lumpur they [entered Indonesia]," said Sutarman.
Indonesian Intelligence Chief Norman Marciano said authorities are trying to determine if the men are tied to Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS.
"They are now suspected of being in the same group. That they belong to the hard-line group. But whether they are [part of that] hard line group that came from the Middle East, near where ISIS was created, that needs to be investigated thoroughly. Give us time to conduct the investigation and later we [will] have… more complete information," said Marciano.
Jakarta has been trying to crackdown on Islamic State recruitment in Indonesia. Last month, officials banned the group and the spread of its message.
The government thinks more than two dozen Indonesians have joined with Islamic State to fight in Syria and Iraq, but analysts say the number could be much higher.
Indonesian terrorism expert Al Chaidar, referring to Islamic State as a Wahabist group, said it is critical for the government to monitor their activities very closely.
"We need people who understand the Wahabi group, which is developing very fast in Indonesia... ISIS is a very strong and terrible group, not only for the government, but also for Muslims, because they can easily denounce people as non-believers," said Chaidar.
Indonesia has threatened to revoke the citizenship of those who continue to support Islamic State militants.
This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Indonesian service.