Bogor: Indonesia has said it will not bring home nearly 700 hundred nationals who joined the Islamic State group in the Middle East over security fears.
The Southeast Asian nation, however, has said that it would still consider the repatriation of the younger children.
While the issue has sharply divided the world’s biggest Muslim majority nation, President Joko Widodo reiterated that he was not in favour of bringing back the suspected militants and their family members who travelled to Syria and other countries to fight for the group’s now crumpled caliphate.
Indonesia’s Security affairs minister Mohammad Mahfud MD said that some 689 Indonesians, including women and children, would not be allowed to return home due to security concerns. Indonesia, from time to time, has suffered repeated attacks by IS-backed groups.
"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 said that it would consider repatriating children 10 years old or younger on a “case by case basis”.
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. "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.
In 2018, a family of suicide bombers from an IS-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 IS 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.