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Indonesia is Talking about a Dangerous Virus that It Fears Will be Recovered from Syria

The issue sharply divided the world's biggest Muslim majority nation with its president saying this week that he was not in favour of bringing back suspected militants and their families who went to Syria and other countries to fight for the group's now crumbled caliphate. Security affairs minister Mahfud MD said that some 689 Indonesians – including women and children – in Syria would not be allowed to return home due to security concerns in a country that suffered repeated attacks by Daesh-loyal groups. 'Dangerous new virus' "We've decided that the government has to provide security assurance to 267 million Indonesian citizens," the minister said Tuesday, after a meeting with President Joko Widodo near Jakarta. "If these foreign terrorist fighters return home they could become a dangerous new virus," he added. The government would consider repatriating children 10 years old or younger on a "case by case basis", he added, without elaborating. Critics of the plan said it was better to bring foreign fighters home and rehabilitate them instead of risking that they could be further radicalised abroad. 'Proxies' "If they're not managed well by the government, there is a possibility they'll be used as proxies by powerful groups that could threaten Indonesia and other countries," said terrorism expert Taufik Andrie. Indonesia has long struggled with militancy and the country hosts dozens of extremist groups loyal to Daesh and its violent ideology. In 2018, family suicide bombers from a Daesh- linked group detonated explosives in several churches in the country's second-largest city Surabaya, killing more than a dozen people. Last year, two militants also linked to Daesh unsuccessfully tried to assassinate Indonesia's chief security minister, while in November a suicide bomber blew himself up at a busy police station, killing himself and injuring at least a dozen people.

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