Indonesian boarding school linked to Daesh gets a reprieve

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Ibnu Mas’ud, a ‘pesantren,’ or Islamic boarding school, near Bogor city 70 km south of Jakarta.
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Agus Purwoko, head of Al-Uruwatul Usro Foundation. (AN photo by Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata)
Updated 20 September 2017
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Indonesian boarding school linked to Daesh gets a reprieve

BOGOR, Indonesia: A boarding school in Indonesia accused of being a breeding ground for Daesh terrorists has been reprieved from closure provided it complies with government regulations and registers with the Religious Affairs Ministry.
Ibnu Mas’ud, a “pesantren,” or Islamic boarding school, near Bogor city 70 km south of Jakarta, had been ordered to close by last Sunday, and nearly 100 people protested outside the school on Monday, demanding that it close its doors.
However, after a meeting with local authorities of Bogor district administration in West Java province, on Monday, the school owner, Agus Purwoko, head of Al-Uruwatul Usro Foundation, told Arab News he would make every effort to comply with government regulations.
The authorities told Purwoko in the meeting, Monday, to officially close the school and properly apply for permits, registering the school with Religious Affairs Ministry, before he can open it again.
“I was told to apply for a school permit to the district administration and register it with the Religious Affairs Ministry,” Purwoko said. His initial intent was not to establish a formal education institution but a place for social service, to provide shelter to underprivileged children, and teach them Islamic values and how to read the Qu’ran, he said.
The closure order followed an incident last month when a student caretaker, Mohammed Supriyadi, 17, burned red and white bunting used as street decoration for Indonesia’s Independence Day celebration on Aug. 17. Police accused Supriyadi of destroying the national flag, although Purwoko said the boy was mentally challenged.
Andi Menir, the local neighborhood chief, said the incident had stirred anger among local people, who considered Supriyadi’s action anti-Indonesia. “We also don’t like that our village is labeled as a terrorist village,” he told Arab News.
Purwoko had expected protests on Sunday, and by last Friday he had sent home 260 of the school’s students, mostly under 16, and ceased operations.
Rakyan Adibrata, a board member of the Certified Counter Terrorism Practitioner program, told Arab News it would be better if the government handed the school over to be managed by moderate Muslim groups.
“Otherwise, it would trigger more hatred from the radical community, who already regard the government as apostate and would use it to justify more terrorist attacks,” he said.
Ade Bhakti, executive director of the Centre for Radicalism and De-radicalization Studies in Jakarta, said their research suggested that two people with direct links to this school had gone to Syria to fight with Daesh. A former caretaker at the school, Munawar, was in Syria, from where he helped to arrange for Indonesian militants to go to the southern Philippines in 2015 and 2016 to join Abu Sayyaf for paramilitary training. Three staff members and a teenage student from the school were also stopped by Singapore authorities last February last year when they tried to leave for Syria, and were deported back to Indonesia.
Purwoko denied that his school was a breeding ground for Islamist militants. He said he never felt it necessary to check the children’s backgrounds, as he only wanted to provide them with a place where they could feel safe and welcome. He also denied any association with Aman Abdurrahman, a terrorist linked with the fatal January 2016 attack in central Jakarta.
Alghiffari Aqsa, a lawyer from the Legal Aid Foundation, a group in Jakarta that supports the pesantren, said any terrorist linked to the school should be treated as an individual case, instead of blaming the entire school.
“Don’t mix an individual terrorist conviction with the school as an institution,” said Usman Hamid, the director of Amnesty International Indonesia, who also supports the school.


Families bury victims as Tanzania ferry disaster toll passes 200

Updated 23 September 2018
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Families bury victims as Tanzania ferry disaster toll passes 200

  • Divers were also set to continue their grim search in the waters around the boat
  • With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometers, Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya

UKARA, Tanzania: Grieving families were on Sunday preparing to bury victims of Tanzania’s devastating ferry disaster, with more than 200 confirmed dead after the crowded boat capsized in Lake Victoria.
Hopes were fading of finding any more survivors three days after the ferry sank on Thursday, even after rescuers pulled out an engineer who had managed to find refuge in an air pocket in the upturned vessel.
“We are going to start burying bodies not yet identified by relatives,” said John Mongella, governor of Mwanza region, where the MV Nyerere ferry had been coming in to dock on the island of Ukara.
“The (burial) ceremony will be overseen by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa, in the presence of clergy members of different denominations,” Mongella said Saturday on TBC 1 public television.
Divers were also set to continue their grim search in the waters around the boat, where late Saturday they were watched by anxious crowds gathered just meters (yards) away on Ukara’s shore.
Mongella said 218 people had been confirmed dead, while 41 escaped the tragedy with their lives — a total figure far above the official capacity of the boat, which was in theory only able to carry 101 passengers.
One survivor was an engineer who shut himself into a “special room” with enough air for him to stay alive until he was found, said local lawmaker Joseph Mkundi.
Transport Minister Isack Kamwelwe said on Saturday that 172 of the victim’s bodies had been identified by relatives.
State television cited witnesses reporting that more than 200 people had boarded the ferry at Bugolora, a town on the larger Ukerewe Island. It was market day, which usually sees the vessel packed with people and goods.
Witnesses told AFP the ferry sank when passengers rushed to one side to disembark as it approached the dock. Others blamed the captain, saying he had made a brusque maneuver.
Dozens of wooden coffins lined the shore on Saturday, waiting to be seen by families as police and volunteers sought to keep hundreds of curious locals at bay.
Aisha William came to collect the body of her husband. “He left on Tuesday around noon, but he never came home. I do not know how I am going to raise my two children,” she said.
Ahmed Caleb, a 27-year-old trader, railed at a tragedy “which could have been prevented. I’ve lost my boss, friends, people I went to school with,” he sighed.
The aging vessel, whose hull and propellers were all that remained visible above water, was also carrying cargo, including sacks of maize, bananas and cement, when it capsized.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli on Friday ordered the arrest of the ferry’s management and declared four days of national mourning.
In a speech broadcast on TBC 1, Magufuli said “it appears clear that the ferry was overloaded,” adding that the government would cover the funeral expenses of the victims.
With a surface area of 70,000 square kilometers, oval-shaped Lake Victoria is roughly the size of Ireland and is shared by Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya.
It is not uncommon for ferries to capsize in the lake, and the number of fatalities is often high due to a shortage of life jackets and the fact that many people in the region cannot swim.