Indonesian ISIS executioner dies in Syria
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An Indonesian militant shown killing a foreigner in a 2016 Islamic State group video was killed last month in a battle with US-backed forces in Syria, Indonesian police and a family member say.
National police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said Muhammad Saifuddin was killed on January 29 in eastern Deir Ezzor province where an international coalition is trying to defeat remaining pockets of IS group extremists.
“He was killed by shrapnel from a Syrian forces tank in the battle,” Prasetyo told The Associated Press.
Saifuddin’s older brother, Muinudinillah Basri, said the family learned about the death through an instant messaging app. “There was a photo of his body and I can recognise it,” he said.
Saifuddin was a recruitment tool for IS and appeared in several videos on radical websites. They included a 2016 video that showed him along with two other militants from Malaysia and the Philippines killing three foreigners, including Japanese journalist Kenji Goto, who were dressed in orange jumpsuits and forced to kneel before being slain.
The US in August designated Saifuddin as a global terrorist.
Basri said the family hadn’t heard from Saifuddin since he left Indonesia to join IS in Syria with his wife and children about four years ago.
They believed he was originally radicalised by a Christian-Muslim conflict in Indonesia’s Ambon region from 1999 to 2001 along with his twin brother, who died in the conflict.
One of Saifuddin’s Indonesian friends, convicted militant Sofyan Tsauri, said that in radical circles Saifuddin was perceived as trusted by IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a leader of Southeast Asian Islamic militants.
Tsauri, a former member of the al-Qaeda-affiliated network responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings who now collaborates with Indonesia’s counterterrorism agency, said Saifuddin fled to the southern Philippines shortly after the Bali bombings.
He was arrested in the Philippines while attempting to return to Indonesia with weapons and explosives and sentenced to nine years in prison in 2007.
After marrying the widow of an Indonesian suicide bomber following his early release in 2013, Saifuddin sank below the radar of authorities but reappeared several years later in an IS propaganda video that urged Indonesian Muslims to join violent jihad in Syria or the southern Philippines.