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Jakarta Jihadists in the Levant
Indonesian Extremists Are Fighting in Syria

At least 50 Jihadists from Indonesia have made the trip to Syria to join the fight against President Bashar al-Assad, and that number is expected to grow, according to a new report. The NYT has the story:

The report by the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, based in Jakarta, said that the Syrian conflict, approaching its third anniversary in March, had “captured the imagination of Indonesian extremists in a way no foreign war has before.”

“The enthusiasm for Syria is directly linked to predictions in Islamic eschatology that the final battle at the end of time will take place in Sham, the region sometimes called Greater Syria or the Levant, encompassing Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel,” the report said, adding that atrocities committed by government forces against Sunni Muslims have been given strong play in the Indonesian news media and on radical websites.

Read the whole fascinating report here. The Indonesian Jihadist movement could gain a lot from Syria. For one, battle-scarred extremists who return home to Indonesia after a stint in Syria will be better trained soldiers. They will be better organized, with a larger network of financiers, supporters and resources to fuel a more capable fight against the Indonesian government. Furthermore, Assad’s violence against Sunni Muslims in Syria plays into an ongoing campaign by Sunni extremists in Indonesia who consistently portray Shi’a Muslims as “deviant and murderous.” Many Indonesian Islamists see the fight against Assad, whose Alawite sect is a Shi’a offshoot, as a fight for all Sunnis in the face of Shi’a aggression.

It is well documented that the mess in Syria has spilled over into neighboring countries. Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey have all felt the shockwaves. But if the result of Indonesians fighting in Syria is a reinvigorated terrorist force in a country with over 12 percent of the world’s Muslims, then it would be the first evidence of a much wider Syrian blast radius.

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