ISIS has sleeper cells all across Indonesia

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Indonesian military steps up security as Marawi siege in the Philippines continues

JAKARTA: The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has a presence in nearly all provinces across Indonesia, the military chief said in Jakarta.

General Gatot Nurmantyo's comments late on Monday that there are clandestine "sleeper" cells across the sprawling Indonesian archipelago underscored concerns about ISIS' growing influence in South-east Asia, Reuters reported.

"After observation, we see that in almost every province ... there are already ISIS cells, but they are sleeper cells," Gen Nurmantyo said.

He singled out the predominantly Christian province of Papua as one of the few exceptions.

"These sleeper cells can easily join up with other radical cells," he said.

Governments across the region have been on high alert since ISIS-linked militants, mostly from South-east Asian countries, overran Marawi in the Philippines about three weeks ago.

Noting that members of sleeper cells have been radicalised, the military warned that these people are inactive now but may resort to action when triggered, The Straits Times reported.

Army major general Ganip Warsito, a territorial military commander overseeing Sulawesi and the border with the Philippines, said such citizens may harbour ISIS fighters from the Philippines if any crossed over to Indonesia.

General Ganip told reporters security has been stepped up, whatever the outcome of the siege in Marawi, located in Mindanao.

"If the Philippines wins, Indonesia would get a spill-over effect from the retreating militants.

"But if the Philippines loses, Mindanao would be a strong regional ISIS base that threatens Indonesia among others," he said.

This has led the Indonesian military to set up more military bases, locally known as Kodim, in the outlying areas on the border, he added.

Gen Ganip said intelligence and territorial defence operations around the border with the Philippines have not given any indication that any militant had crossed over and that the Indonesian military is striving to keep it that way.

Indonesian troops were previously stationed in only three islands on the border with the Philippines. As part of the stepped-up security, reinforcement was sent to all other islands in the area which may be used in escape routes.

Indonesia's National Counter-terrorism Agency chief Suhardi Alius said last Thursday 40 Indonesians fighting in Marawi are followers of Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD).

An offshoot of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) terror network, which was behind the 2002 Bali bombings, the JAD is known for mounting deadly attacks, especially on the Indonesian police.

JAD is led by Aman Abdurrahman, a jailed ideologue who ordered his followers to mount a suicide attack in Jakarta in January last year.

Meanwhile, the United States State Department has declared Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) and Marwan Ibrahim Hussayn Tah al-Azawi, an Iraqi ISIS leader, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.

Set up in 2000 by JI founder Abu Bakar Bashir, the Al-Qaeda-linked MMI conducted attacks in Indonesia, including a May 2012 attack at a Canadian author's book launch in Jakarta.