Indonesian police have freed the eight men deported from Singapore earlier this week for security concerns, saying their own investigation found the group to have no known links to terrorist movements.
“All eight have been sent back....They are not in any way linked with terrorist movements,” Riau Islands police chief Sam Budigusdian was quoted saying in a report on Batam Pos' website on Friday (Jan 13).
The eight Indonesian men were deported on Tuesday after trying to enter Singapore at the Woodlands Checkpoint. One of them was found in the possession of “images of security concern”, including of a shoe bomb as well as fighters from Islamic State (IS).
“The Singapore authorities informed their Malaysian counterparts before the deportation,” a spokesperson for Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs said on Thursday.
The eight men, ranging in age from 16 to 37 years, with most of them in their 20s, were first deported to Malaysia before they were to Batam via ferry.
Batam Pos reported that the group was questioned by Riau police and Indonesia’s special counterterrorism unit, Densus 88, for two days. They were subsequently found to have no links to terror groups, the report added.
The photos of the homemade shoe bomb and IS fighters were found on the phone of the 37-year-old in the group, identified as Mr Ridce Elfi Hendra in media reports. Mr Hendra reportedly told Indonesian police that he had the photos because he used to be in a group influenced by IS.
But he had since distanced himself from the group, as he did not agree with them, Batam Pos reported. Mr Budigusdian said the group was sent back to West Sumatra, where the local police would continue to keep watch on them.
According to Mr Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, principal assistant director of Malaysia’s Special Branch’s counterterrorism division, the eight deportees claimed they were preachers from the Tablighi Jamaat global Sunni Muslim missionary group. The group’s teachings in Malaysia have been largely moderate, he said.
This is the third time in the span of a year where several Indonesians were deported from Singapore for allegedly possessing radical images or for trying to join IS in Syria.
Last month, two Indonesians were deported from the Republic after they were found to be planning to travel to Syria via Singapore. ln February, four male Indonesians from Java, aged between 15 and 29, were also deported from Singapore while allegedly en route to Syria to join the terror group.