Turkey detains 16 Indonesians trying to cross border into Syria
JAKARTA, Indonesia – Turkish authorities have detained 16 Indonesians from three families who were trying to cross into Syria, a Turkish foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday, March 11, a route frequently used by sympathizers of Islamic State (ISIS) militants.
"These 16 people – 3 families – are currently being held at a holding center ... and we have information that Indonesia's Ankara embassy is in touch with the group," spokesman Tanju Bilgic said in a statement.
The Indonesian embassy in Ankara had made no formal requests of the Turkish foreign ministry regarding the group, according to the statement, which gave no details on the reasons for their detention.
Authorities have yet to confirm if the 16 are the same Indonesians who went missing in Turkey on February 24. Earlier this week, Indonesia's Foreign Ministry sent a special team to Turkey to track them down, according to a statement on the Cabinet Secretariat website.
The 16, which includes at least 4 children, were part of a tour group of 25. As soon as they arrived in Istanbul, the 16 left the group, saying they wanted to meet relatives in the country.
“They promised to return. But until March 4, 2015, (the end of the tour) they didn't appear at the airport,” Smailing Tour CEO Davy Batubara said, according to Viva.co.id. "They comprise 3 families, including 4 children, and two unrelated persons."
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo acknowledged on Saturday the possibility they had gone to join ISIS but at the time had "no accurate information related to it”.
More than 500 Indonesians are believed to have joined ISIS.
Thousands of foreigners from more than 80 nations including Britain, other parts of Europe, China and the United States have joined the ranks of Islamic State and other radical groups in Syria and Iraq, many crossing through Turkey.
Turkey has said it needs more information from foreign intelligence agencies to intercept them, pointing to cases such as the three London schoolgirls who fled Britain to join Islamic State last month. – with a report from Reuters