SINGAPORE — The Indonesian government remains concerned about the threat posed by the self-described Islamic State, despite the group’s recent territorial losses in Iraq and Syria including the ceding of the key city of Ramadi to the Iraqi army in late December. “Indonesia is very vulnerable,” said Dewi Fortuna Anwar, an adviser to Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla, airing Jakarta’s fears that Indonesian members of IS could return home to carry out terrorist attacks. “We are exploring the role played by religious leaders to develop counter narratives,” Anwar said, discussing the ideological appeal of the extremist group to hundreds of Indonesians thought to have traveled to Iraq and Syria in recent years. Anwar was speaking in Singapore at a regional forum organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
KUALA LUMPUR — Obama held a separate press conference at a plush hotel away from the summit venue, where he repeated his view that the war in Syria — the seedbed for IS — was the fault of the Assad government, against which the U.S. has funded opposition militia groups. “It is not conceivable that Mr. Assad can regain legitimacy in a country in which a large majority of that country despises Assad, and will not stop fighting so long as he’s in power,” Obama said, at around the same time a terror threat forced the diversion to Canada of a Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to New York, while Belgian capital Brussels, the European Union headquarters, remained in lockdown due to “a serious and imminent threat,” according to Prime Minister Charles Michel.
JAKARTA/KUALA LUMPUR – To counter ISIS in Indonesia, the Widodo government is considering further measures, according to Ahmad Suaedy, coordinator of the Abdurrahman Wahid Center for Inter-Faith Dialogue and Peace. “The Indonesian government is now looking for the legal basis to prohibit and provide sanctions that deter Muslims from involvement with [Islamic State] and other forms of radicalism and terrorism,” he said.
DALHAMIEH, Lebanon – Rolling up a green dress sleeve, 12-year-old Syrian refugee *Reina murmurs “chemical, chemical.” Her arm, what’s left of it, is distorted, wrinked and swollen – looking more more like a fossilized tree root than a human limb. Inside her family’s shelter, a grimy hut made from a frame of uneven-sized timbers nailed together and covered in plastic sheetings and tarpaulin, others gather round. Most decline to have their full name quoted out of fear of reprisals. “Look, look,” says Safaa, 16, pulling down a snot-covered sleeve from her baby daughter Noufa’s arm. Scabs and blotches cover the infant’s wrist and foream. Clasping the child to her chest, she stoops to reveal shins covered in rotten wounds, greying at the edges and crusted over in between. Over the course of Syria’s two-year civil war, both the government and rebels accuse each other of using chemical weapons, a charge both sides deny.
ISTANBUL — For Sarmad, translating e-mails from English to Arabic for fellow Iraqis is a welcome change from the incessant fear of murder he lived with in Iraq. In his hometown, Mosul, attacks on Christians have been an almost-daily reality since the ousting of Saddam Hussein in 2003. “I was stopped at the university,” Sarmad recalls. People he describes as “terrorists” told the 18-year-old mechanical engineering student, “If you come here again, we will kill you.” Al-Qaeda in Iraq has targeted the country’s fast-disappearing Christian population, describing them as “legitimate targets” and forcing unknown hundreds of thousands to flee in recent years. Out of an estimated 800,000 to 1.3 million Christians during the Hussein era, now less than half are thought to remain in the country.