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Eight deported Indonesians probed for ties to ISIS

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Photos of shoe-bomb found on group leader's phone at Woodlands Checkpoint

Singapore has deported eight Indonesians, after immigration officers at Woodlands Checkpoint found photos of a "shoe-bomb", and other images related to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), on the smartphone of the group's leader.

The men, from Bukit Tinggi in West Sumatra, had travelled to Thailand and Malaysia over the past week.

They were handed over to Malaysian authorities, and then sent to the Riau Islands on Tuesday.

The men are now being questioned by officers from Detachment 88 (Densus 88), Indonesia's police counter-terrorism unit, said Riau Islands police chief Sam Budigusdian on Wednesday.

Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday confirmed that the men, aged between 16 and 37, were deported to Malaysia, after one of them was in possession of "images of security concern, including that of a shoe-bomb as well as fighters from the (ISIS) terrorist group".


General Sam said the men were from a boarding school for Muslims in Bukit Tinggi and were members of Jamaah Tabligh, an Islamic missionary movement.

They left Padang, the provincial capital of West Sumatra, on Jan 3 and travelled by plane to Kuala Lumpur, to preach at Bukit Jalil.

The 37-year-old group leader, identified by the initials REH, was also there to seek treatment for an ear infection, he added.

A photo of a shoe-bomb found on the group leader’s phone.PHOTO: THE STRAITS TIMES

The next two days, they travelled overland to mosques in Malacca and Perlis, before making their way to Pattani, a town in southern Thailand that is predominantly Malay-Muslim, on Jan 7.

"Then on Jan 10, they tried to enter Singapore but were denied entry and later handed over to Malaysia," said Gen Sam.

Malaysian state news agency Bernama, reported yesterday that the group was stopped by Singapore authorities at 1.30am on Tuesday.

The Straits Times understands that Densus 88 investigators are still trying to establish what the group was doing between Jan 7 and the day they arrived at Woodlands Checkpoint.

According to Gen Sam, Malaysian investigators had concluded that the group did not embrace ISIS ideology and REH had downloaded the illicit images from a WhatsApp group, which he has since left.

"Densus 88 has a week to conduct its investigation against them, we are still trying to determine (what happened)," he added.

Indonesia's anti-terror laws do not allow the police to detain a terrorist suspect for more than seven days for questioning.

This is the third report in the last year of Indonesians being deported by Singapore over suspected links to ISIS.

Last month, two Indonesians - a woman and a man - were deported to Batam after the woman, identified as Suriati, had planned to travel to Syria to join ISIS.

She was detained after she arrived at HarbourFront Centre on Dec 26.

The man, identified as M Nur, landed at Changi Airport that day and was questioned separately.

Both were deported the next day after it was established that Suriati had intended to travel to Syria with help from M Nur.

This came after four Indonesians from an Islamic boarding school in West Java were stopped here and deported last February after they were found to have plans to travel to Syria to fight for ISIS.