Bintan travel agency was a cover for ISIS terror activities

Indonesian militant suspects were detained months after setting up a travel agency in Bintan which provided safe passage for those joining ISIS.

PHOTO: Today

BINTAN – A travel agency on Bintan Island was set up as a front for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror activities which included providing safe passage for those joining ISIS. Gigih Rahmat Dewa was ordered to set up the agency which was intended to generate revenue for terror activities.

According to The Straits Times, Gigih was given 27 million rupiah (SGD2,800) to set up the agency which he received from his handler Bahrun Naim. Bahrun is an ISIS operative who was listed in a terrorist watch list by the US earlier this year. He was involved in several terror plots in Indonesia.

Bahrun told Gigih through text messages that the agency could be a front for money laundering activities as well. However, this plan did not last long as Gigih and five other suspects were arrested by Detachment 88, an Indonesia’s counter-terrorism force.

Gigih and his men, who were suspected Indonesian militants, were behind the plot to launch a rocket from Batam to Marina Bay in August last year. The plot was foiled by Indonesian authorities in coordination with the Ministry of Home Affairs and led to their arrests. Gigih, Hadi Gusti Yanda, Tarmidzi, Eka Saputra and Trio Syafidro were nabbed on August 5 last year in Batam while Leonardo Hutajulu was arrested last September.

According to Indonesia’s National Counter-terrorism Agency (BNPT) chief, Suhardi Alius, the plot was to launch a rocket from a hilltop in Batam to hit Marina Bay. The strike was reportedly ordered by Bahrun.

Using a travel agency as a cover for terror activity is nothing new said Institute for International Peace Building executive director, Taufik Andrie. This method was employed even before the 9/11 and Bali bombing attacks, he added. However, lately these ‘businesses’ sell airsoft guns to generate revenue. The airsoft guns are made to look like assault rifles but they shoot pellets.

“All these are hard to detect because they are run as legitimate businesses.”

– Institute for International Peace Building executive director, Taufik Andrie

On January 24, Gigih and the other suspects were charged with harbouring militants and funding terror activities. All of them did not plead guilty.

Other illicit activities done by the travel agency included arranging travel for militants to the Middle East to join up with ISIS or to Central Sulawesi to join the East Indonesia Mujahideen terrorists. A source also told The Straits Times that Gigih assisted two Uighurs from a Muslim separatist group to escape from Malaysia to Indonesia. These activities are suspected to be funded by Bahrun as well.

According to Indonesia’s anti-money laundering agency PPATK, more than 10 billion rupiah in 2014 and 2015 were transferred into the country to fund terror operations. Alius added that Paypal and bitcoins were used in these transactions.

Currently, Indonesian authorities are monitoring domestic terror networks and smaller groups trying to take over from Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). ISIS also gained prominence in Indonesia through local proxies who target local police officers. Indonesian intelligence officials are also tracking the movements of Uighurs in the Riau Islands who may link up with local militant groups.

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