TIME Asia

China Arrests 380 in First Month of Yearlong Antiterrorism Campaign

China Terrorism Crackdown
Armed paramilitary policemen ride on a truck during an antiterrorism oath-taking rally at the Grand Bazaar in Urumqi, China, on May 23, 2014 AP

In general, the names of those arrested are not released, and they are likely to face trial in secret

China has arrested at least 380 people in its first month of a yearlong campaign against terrorism, state-run media said on Monday.

The crackdown was triggered by a suicide attack blamed on Islamic militants that left 39 people dead in the restive western province of Xinjiang in May.

The Ministry of Public Security said in a statement that the campaign to avert the spread of religious radicalism would last until June 2015, “With Xinjiang as the center, and with cooperation from other provinces.”

China Central Television (CCTV) stated that the campaign began with the disbanding of 32 terrorist groups in the western province, confirming Beijing’s promise that “terrorists and extremists will be hunted down and punished,” AFP reported.

Along with arrests that concentrated on suspected militants in Xinjiang but spread throughout the country, police also seized 264 devices that could discharge 3.15 tons of explosives, CCTV reported.

Most of the violence in Xinjiang apparently stems from rising tensions between the predominantly Muslim Uighur minority and majority Han Chinese migrants. Human-rights groups also blame increasing economic disparity and religious discrimination against the Uighurs, although Beijing claims that the government has helped improve the local economy and infrastructure.

[AFP]

TIME Foreign Policy

Kerry Presses for Iraq Peace but Warns Militants Could Force U.S. Action

Secretary of State John Kerry met with top Sunni, Shi'ite and Kurdish political leaders in Baghdad on Monday. He warned that the threat from militants storming across Iraq could force the U.S. to take military action, even as he pressed the country's leaders to cede more power to opponents and forge a political solution to the crisis

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Updated 3:18 p.m. E.T.

Secretary of State John Kerry warned Monday that the threat from militants storming across Iraq could force the U.S. to take military action, even as he pressed the country’s leaders to cede more power to opponents and forge a political solution to the crisis.

“They do pose a threat,” Kerry said of fighters from the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS). “They cannot be given safe haven anywhere.

“That’s why, again, I reiterate the President will not be hampered if he deems it necessary if [political reconciliation] is not complete,” Kerry added.

Kerry’s comments came during an unannounced visit to Baghdad, during which he met with the country’s top officials and urged Shi‘ite leaders to cede more power to their rivals as Sunni insurgents plunge the country into chaos.

Kerry had a 90-minute closed-door meeting with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom U.S. officials pushed to be more inclusive in his government to bridge the country’s sectarian divide, worsened by years of policymaking that slighted Sunnis and the Kurdish minority in the north. Kerry said afterward that al-Maliki, along with other government officials, had committed to meet a July 1 deadline to build a new power-sharing government.

He also met with top Shi‘ite cleric Ammar al-Hakim and one of Iraq’s most senior Sunnis, parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi. “These are difficult times,” he said in the meeting with al-Nujaifi, while reaffirming the Obama Administration’s commitment to stabilizing Iraq’s security. “But the principal concern is for the Iraqi people — for the integrity of the country, its borders, for its sovereignty.”

Kerry spoke about the unrest playing out in Iraq the day before while in Cairo. “This is a critical moment where together we must urge Iraq’s leaders to rise above sectarian motivations and form a government that is united in its determination to meet the needs and speak to the demands of all of their people,” Kerry told reporters.

The Middle East trip comes days after President Barack Obama confirmed the U.S. would send 300 military advisers to assist in the training of the Iraqi military as it attempts to beat back the ferocious assault spearheaded by ISIS extremists. Those troops, Obama said, would not engage in combat missions.

— Additional reporting by Zeke J Miller and Michael Crowley

TIME Australia

You’ll Never Guess Which Country Is the Biggest Per Capita Contributor of Foreign Jihadists to ISIS

Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces, at a street in city of Mosul
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces, at a street in city of Mosul, June 12, 2014. © STRINGER Iraq / Reuters—REUTERS

It isn't in the Middle East or Central Asia or even in Europe. It's Down Under

A startling number of Australian citizens and residents have left the country to join jihadist factions in the ongoing crises in the Middle East, prompting the Australian government to launch a statewide effort to crack down on “home-grown terrorism” fostered within its borders.

“This is one of the most disturbing developments in our domestic security in quite some time,” Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop told the Australian Broadcasting Service. “There’s a real danger that these extremists also come back home as trained terrorists and pose a threat to our security.”

Authorities believe that around 150 Australians are currently fighting alongside ISIS in Iraq and Syria, making the country the highest foreign per capita contributor to the violence. Many more have left the country for the Middle East in recent weeks, though their intent in doing so has not yet been determined.

“We will do everything we humanly can to stop jihadist terrorists coming into this country and if they do return to this country, we will do everything we reasonably can to ensure that they are not moving amongst the Australian community,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Australian press on Monday.

Abbott’s government has thus far canceled a number of passports held by those Australians who have joined the conflict, and is working to fortify a border security system that has a history of being more permeable than desired. It was a “customs failure” last year that permitted convicted terrorist Khaled Sharrouf to escape the country with his brother’s passport and head to Syria and then Iraq, where he has had a hand in the recent mass executions of Iraqi soldiers.

As for the suspected or confirmed terrorists still at large within the Australian borders, the government has mulled over the idea of providing national intelligence agencies greater access to the country’s internet traffic — a potentially controversial move, considering the outcry over the government’s mobile data surveillance plan in 2012.

This is not the first time that Australia has taken note of the extremist diaspora out of the country. Last summer, TIME reported that over 200 Australians had joined militant groups fighting to unseat Syrian President Bashar Assad in the country’s ongoing civil war, and that Australian counterterrorism operatives had consequently begun collecting evidence against suspected combatants.

Still, the exodus persists, from Australia and elsewhere: the Economist reported earlier this month that as many as 3,000 foreigners may have joined ISIS forces. The organization and its satellite groups seem intent on making their chaos an international issue, actively soliciting support from Muslims across the world.

In a 13-minute propagandist recruitment video released last week, purported ISIS extremists stated that their fellow jihadists in Iraq and Syria hailed from countries as far afield as Bangladesh and even Cambodia, although some Cambodian officials have disputed the claim.

 

TIME intelligence

CIA Planned To Make ‘Demon’ Osama Bin Laden Action Figure

Terrorists Osama bin-Laden
Osama bin-Laden was the founder of al-Qaeda, the militant Islamist organization that was responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. Bin-Laden was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011 by an American Special Forces unit in an operation ordered by President Obama. Getty Images

The CIA confirmed to the Washington Post that three prototypes of the action figure were created

The CIA started to make Osama bin Laden action figures that were intended to spook children and parents into turning against him, the Washington Post reports.

Citing “people familiar with the project,” the Post reports that in 2005 the CIA began developing bin Laden action figures with heat-dissolving material that would peel off and reveal a red-faced, demon-like bin Laden. A batch of the toys were manufactured in China, though exactly how many is a subject of dispute.

A spokesperson for the CIA told the Post that only three action figures were created as prototypes, and the agency decided against moving forward with the project. But a source told the Post that hundreds of toys were sent to Karachi in 2006.

See the Post‘s images of the terrifying toy here.

[Washington Post]

TIME Iraq

Iraq Asks the U.S. to Launch Air Strikes Against Sunni Militants

Iraqi Shiite tribesmen brandish their weapons as they gather to show their willingness to join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Jihadist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities, on June 17 2014, in the southern Shiite Muslim shrine city of Najaf.
Iraqi Shiite tribesmen brandish their weapons as they gather to show their willingness to join Iraqi security forces in the fight against Jihadist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities, on June 17 2014, in the southern Shiite Muslim shrine city of Najaf. Haidar Hamdani—AFP/Getty Images

Baghdad has officially asked the U.S. to consider deploying air support to the country's languishing ground troops

Iraq’s embattled government is clamoring for U.S. air strikes against Sunni militias that continue to capture large swaths of territory north of the capital, Baghdad, including portions of the country’s largest oil refinery.

During an official visit to Saudi Arabia this week, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari confirmed the U.S. has been officially asked to supply air support to help halt a massive rebel offensive that is being led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS).

“Iraq has officially asked Washington to help … and to conduct air strikes against terrorist groups,” Zebari told reporters, according to the AFP.

“A military approach will not be enough. We acknowledge the need for drastic political solutions.”

In Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama met with his National Security Council earlier this week before sitting down with top legislators in the Oval Office on Wednesday.

“The President directed his national security team to develop a range of options, and that work is ongoing,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told a pool of reporters Tuesday.

“But there is no military solution that will solve Iraq’s problems, which is why we’ve been urgently pressing Iraq’s leaders across the political spectrum to govern in a non-sectarian manner.”

A car bomb exploded inside a parking lot in the Iraqi capital’s southeastern Shi‘ite neighborhood of New Baghdad on Thursday, killing three and leaving seven people injured, reports the AP.

On Wednesday, reports circulated that ISIS fighters had seized significant swaths of Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Baiji, despite coming up against stiff resistance from government forces comprising elite Iraqi commandos who had the support of helicopter gunships.

Iraqi officials have continued to deny that the battle for the facility has been lost to ISIS.

Brigadier General Arras Abdul Qadir, who is commanding the battle against the insurgent forces at the refinery, reportedly told the New York Times by phone that his men were still inside the facility and fighting.

However, when asked how long his troops could hold out against the enemy, Qadir replied, “We will see.”

TIME United Kingdom

Terrorism Trial in Britain Sparks Accusations of Excessive Secrecy

Britain's Court of Appeal overturned a judge who agreed to hold the trial of two men in absolute secrecy but most of the proceedings will still take place out of public view

A terrorism trial due to be held in London has caused heated debate in Britain with civil liberties advocates and media organizations critizing the country’s main prosecution service for attempting to conduct the trial in total secrecy.

In May, a senior judge agreed to prosecutors’ requests and ruled that the trial would be held entirely in secret. On June 12, just four days before the trial was due to start, Britain’s Court of Appeal overturned this decision, ruling that most of the trial would be heard in private and the rest in public.

The appeal court’s decision was prompted by a joint challenge from a number of British media outlets that had found out about the May ruling and then moved to overturn it. The media had been forbidden by law to even mention the trial’s existence until June 4 when the court lifted a ban on reporting information about the case.

The trial concerns two defendants, Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bohadjar, both 26 and from London, who are accused of collecting or recording information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Though the bulk of the trial will be heard in private, a small number of accredited journalists will be allowed to attend the closed hearings. These journalists will only be from those media outlets that made the appeal and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the government department that prosecutes criminal cases, will hand pick them.

That has angered a number of politicians and activists who worry that allowing the CPS to select journalists to attend the trial goes against the British tradition of open justice.

In a statement on his website, the Conservative MP David Davis condemned the trial’s secrecy. “We should be wary of accepting as the new norm in camera trials with controlled journalistic access,” he said.

These comments are the latest in a stream of criticism that the trial has generated. On June 5, the trial made the front pages of three major British newspapers: the Daily Mail, the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian.

Philip Johnston, an editorial writer for the right-leaning Telegraph, wrote: “We are being asked, in other words, to sacrifice one of the key principles of justice – that it should be seen to be done – for security.” Owen Jones, a columnist for the left-of-center Guardian called the trial “an affront to basic principles of justice, and a frightening precedent to boot.”

Lord Gross, one of the appeal court judges who overturned the secret trial, said in his ruling that secrecy is sometimes necessary to protect matters of national security. “For the [intelligence agencies] to operate effectively, at least much of their work is secret and must remain so as a matter of necessity.”

Andrew Scott, associate professor of law at the London School of Economics echoed this. He told TIME: “It is never a question of aspiring to total openness. Most obviously weighing against transparency are matters of national security and highly private personal information, but also, for example, matters that are commercially sensitive or confidential.”

Some legal experts and civil liberties groups have suggested that there is a growing movement towards secrecy in the U.K. courts. After the terrorist bombings in London in July 2007, the British intelligence agency, MI5, angered families of the victims when it attempted to exclude them from hearings on the attacks because they said the evidence would include sensitive intelligence material. This request was overturned the official in charge of the hearings in 2010. In 2013, the British parliament passed a law that extended use of secret information into civil cases.

This practice is known as closed material procedure (CMP), and allows classified information to be introduced in a trial that can only be seen by the judge and by lawyers who have received security clearance.

Scott condemned the proceedings, telling TIME: “CMPs are an abomination in the face of the principle of open justice.” Juan Mendez, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture, has also criticized them.

The trial of Incedar and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar has been postponed until October. Full details of the case are likely to emerge at the end of the trial when the accredited journalists will have their notes from the closed hearings returned to them.

TIME Terrorism

Capture of Benghazi Suspect Again Raises Question: Guantanamo or the Courts?

U.S. President Obama speaks about the situation in Iraq at the White House
U.S. President Barack Obama on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, June 13, 2014. Kevin Lamarque—Reuters

Obama Administration opting for courts, after a Navy cruise

The capture of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the recently-snatched alleged ringleader of the 2012 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, once again highlights the split in the national debate over how to handle terrorists: Are they prisoners of war, or are they criminals?

Many terrorists linked to al-Qaeda were sent to Guantanamo Bay during George W. Bush’s presidency. Many others have been tried in civilian courts. According to the nonprofit group Human Rights First, there have been almost 500 people convicted on terror-related charges in federal civilian criminal courts since 9/11, compared to eight convictions in the Pentagon’s military commissions.

The Obama Administration prefers the federal court route, which is how it plans to proceed with Khattala—generating Republican criticism. “The Obama Administration should immediately transfer him to the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay for detention and interrogation,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“Rather than rushing to read him his Miranda rights and telling him he has the right to remain silent, I hope the Administration will focus on collecting the intelligence necessary to prevent future attacks,” added Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

Who’d have thought a 1966 Supreme Court ruling designed to protect Ernesto Arturo Miranda’s confession to kidnapping, rape and armed robbery while under police interrogation would become the rope in a tug-of-war between the White House and Congress nearly a half-century later on how to handle captured terrorists?

Legal expert Jack Goldsmith. a former Pentagon lawyer now teaching at Harvard Law School, doubts the U.S. could hold Khattala in military detention, or try him before a military commission. That’s because Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has said the Benghazi attack didn’t fall under the congressional authorization for the use of military force, nor, in Goldsmith’s view, did it amount to a “conflict subject to the rules of war.”

Sending Khattala to Guantanamo is “the easy way out,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.), chairman of the judiciary committee, who applauded his move into the federal court system. “We will try Khattala just as we have successfully tried more than 500 terrorism suspects since 9/11.”

The Obama Administration is actually straddling the issue, by housing Khattala aboard a Navy vessel in the Mediterranean for questioning (the Los Angeles Times reports he did get a Miranda warning “shortly after his capture” following initial questioning about other potential terror threats under a “public safety” exemption). “We should have some quality time with this guy—weeks and months,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), an Air Force reserve lawyer, said Tuesday. “Don’t torture him, but have some quality time with him.”

The Administration has questioned at least two other terror suspects aboard ships for up to two months before dispatching them into the federal court system.

“The only reason for having him on a U.S. warship is to provide a nice quiet environment where the investigators can work their wiles on him,” says Eugene Fidell, a military-law lecturer at the Yale Law School and former president of the National Institute of Military Justice. “If the government wanted to have Khattala at the E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse [in Washington, D.C.] by four o’clock, he’d be there. The notion seems to have taken root that the government has, if not all the time in the world, as much time as it reasonably wants to see if can coax these people into making statements.”

TIME Foreign Policy

Cheney on Obama’s Foreign Policy: ‘Rarely Has a U.S. President Been So Wrong About So Much’

Dick And Lynne Cheney Participate In Book Discussion In Washington
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney talks about his wife Lynne Cheney's book James Madison: A Life Reconsidered in Washington on May 12, 2014 Win McNamee—Getty Images

The former Vice President, who spearheaded the plans to invade Iraq in 2003, says President Obama is responsible for the recent gains of Sunni extremists militias in the country

Dick Cheney took off the gloves and let his dukes fly in an all-out assault on President Obama’s foreign policy decisions in the Middle East, in a scorching column published in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

In the op-ed, penned with his pundit daughter Liz, former Vice President Cheney places the precipitous collapse of the Iraqi state, and the renewed civil war in the country, squarely on the shoulders of the Obama Administration.

“Rarely has a U.S. President been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” writes Cheney. “Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is ‘ending’ the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — as though wishing made it so.”

Cheney cites Obama’s decision to withdraw all military forces from Iraq as one of the principal reasons why the country is again enmeshed in conflict.

“Mr. Obama had only to negotiate an agreement to leave behind some residual American forces, training and intelligence capabilities to help secure the peace,” writes Cheney. “Instead, he abandoned Iraq and we are watching American defeat snatched from the jaws of victory.”

The column comes a week after the seizure of a string of cities across northern Iraq by former al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Sunni militias are reportedly inching closer to Baghdad in what analysts predict will lead to massive bloodshed.

Cheney is largely credited during his tenure in office with being one of the chief architects of the 2003 Iraq invasion, which in turn unleashed a crippling civil war in the country. A mammoth counterinsurgency effort by the U.S. in 2007 succeeded in securing cease-fires with Sunni and Shi‘ite militias and for a time appeared to have wiped out al-Qaeda-affiliated forces in Iraq. However, those gains were reversed when the U.S. withdrew its military forces from the country in 2011.

Cheney’s complete column can be read here.

TIME Libya

U.S. Captures Suspected Ringleader of Benghazi Attack

Ahmed Abu Khatallah is suspected in the 2012 attack

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American authorities have captured a suspected “key figure” in the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, officials confirmed on Tuesday, during a covert raid in Libya that gives a welcome foreign policy victory for the Obama Administration.

U.S. Special Forces and law-enforcement personnel apprehended Ahmed Abu Khatallah, a senior leader of the militant group Ansar al-Shari’a, on Sunday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

“He is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya,” Kirby said. “There were no civilian casualties related to this operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely departed Libya.

American officials wouldn’t yet say where Khatallah will be transferred to, though he is expected to be turned over to law enforcement for trial in the U.S. in the coming days. The Department of Justice filed charges against Khatallah in a sealed indictment in federal court last year.

Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed during the Sept. 11, 2012 attack. It became a rallying cry for conservative critics of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy record in the run-up to the 2012 elections, and congressional Republicans have continued to probe the Administration’s handling of the incident and its aftermath.

“The United States has an unwavering commitment to bring to justice those responsible for harming Americans,” Obama said in a statement. “Since the deadly attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, I have made it a priority to find and bring to justice those responsible for the deaths of four brave Americans. I recently authorized an operation in Libya to detain an individual charged for his role in these attacks, Ahmed Abu Khatallah. The fact that he is now in U.S. custody is a testament to the painstaking efforts of our military, law enforcement and intelligence personnel.”

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham quickly said on Twitter that “Khattala should be held at Guantánamo as a potential enemy combatant.” But Obama made clear his Administration is taking another route.

“This individual will now face the full weight of the American justice system,” Obama said.

“With this operation, the United States has once again demonstrated that we will do whatever it takes to see that justice is done when people harm Americans,” he added. “We will continue our efforts to bring to justice those who were responsible for the Benghazi attacks.”

Khatallah was added to the State Department’s designated list of terrorists in January. He was living relatively openly in Libya after the attacks, sitting for several interviews with Western reporters last year. Khatallah is the first suspect to have been captured for suspected involvement in the attack. His capture was first reported by the Washington Post.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the apprehension doesn’t end the U.S. investigation into the attack, “but marks an important milestone.”

TIME indonesia

The ISIS Extremists Causing Havoc in Iraq Are Getting Funds and Recruits From Southeast Asia

Militants from Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, are being lured by ISIS's hard-line Sunni extremism

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Men in balaclavas are cradling Kalashnikovs as they look into a camera, somewhere in Syria. They are university students, businessmen, former soldiers and even teenagers. One by one, they urge their fellow countrymen to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the jihadist group so extreme that it has been denounced by al-Qaeda. But these aren’t Syrians, or Uzbeks, or Chechens. They are Indonesian.

“Let us fight in the path of Allah because it is our duty to do jihad in the path of Allah … especially here in Sham [the Syrian region] … and because, God willing, it will be to this country that our families will do the holy migration,” says one in Bahasa Indonesia peppered with Arabic phrases. “Brothers in Indonesia, don’t be afraid because fear is the temptation of Satan.”

A fellow jihadist, a former Indonesian soldier, calls on those in the police and armed forces to repent and abandon the defense of their country and its “idolatrous” state ideology, Pancasila.

The video of the Indonesian men in Syria emerged shortly before ISIS seized the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tikrit, in landmark victories on June 10 and 11. It reflects the growing attraction that the Sunni extremist group holds for the most militant jihadists from Indonesia — the country with the world’s biggest Muslim population, and one that has long battled threats of terrorism.

“Like in Syria, the Sunni jihadi movement is split in Indonesia,” Sidney Jones, director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, tells TIME. Some Indonesian jihadists, including many senior leaders of Jemaah Islamiyah (the group behind the Bali bombings in 2002 and other terrorist attacks) are loyal to the alliance around the al-Nusra Front and al-Qaeda, she says, “while most of the more militant, non-JI groups are supporting ISIS.”

According to a recent report, the Syrian conflict has lured an estimated 12,000 foreign fighters, mostly from neighboring Middle Eastern countries, but also from Europe, Australia, the U.S. — and Southeast Asia. In January, Indonesia’s counterterrorism agency reckoned about 50 Indonesians had gone to fight in Syria, though it is not known how many of them joined ISIS. A Malaysian security official said more than 20 Malaysians are known to have entered Syria to fight Bashar Assad’s regime.

On Saturday, Malaysian media reported that Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, who bombed an Iraqi military headquarters, earned “the dubious honor of being Malaysia’s first suicide bomber linked to” ISIS. Some months earlier, in November, reports emerged that Riza Fardi, who studied at the infamous Ngruki Islamic boarding school in Central Java — the same school attended by the Bali bombers — became the first Indonesian jihadist to die in Syria.

While terrorist threats have waned in Southeast Asia, thanks to imprisonment and deaths of senior jihadist figures, the civil war in Syria, and now in Iraq, has raised the specter of fighters returning home with the terrorist know-how and a militant outlook — not unlike the returnees from the Afghan war in the 1980s. “Returning fighters will have deeper indoctrination, more international contacts and perhaps a deeper commitment to the global jihad,” says Jones.

The three-year Syrian war has attracted even more foreign fighters than the Afghan war. One possible reason is a prophecy, popular among global jihadists, about the final battle before Judgment Day. “There are hadith, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, that predict an apocalyptic war of good vs. evil, and according to one hadith, it would start in Syria,” says Solahudin, a Jakarta-based terrorism expert.

Indonesia has a different approach to jihadism than its neighbors. Though terrorist attacks are punishable by death, it is not illegal to raise money for or join a foreign jihadist group. In contrast, in late April, Malaysia arrested 10 militants — eight men and two women — who planned to travel to Syria to take part in the war. In March, Singapore said it was investigating the departure of a national to join the Syrian jihad.

Emboldened by Indonesia’s more tolerant attitude, ISIS supporters there have become more visible and openly solicit funds. They held a collection in February at an Islamic state university on the outskirts of Jakarta and held a rally in the capital’s central business district in March. On June 15, a Sunday morning when one of the main streets in the Central Javanese city of Solo is transformed into a weekly car-free zone for strolling families, militants from Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, a JI splinter cell, paraded in ISIS insignia, waved ISIS flags and wreaked havoc on a music performance.

They are also quite active on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. Iqbal Kholidi, who tracks and observes Indonesian ISIS supporters on social media, has culled photos of them training and posing with the signature black flags from across the country — in Jakarta, Central Java, South Kalimantan and Poso, Central Sulawesi. They have become bolder in recent months, Iqbal says, and that is likely “because there is an impression that the authorities are just keeping quiet all this time.”

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