World Bulletin / News Desk
A group of Indonesian visitors that had gone missing in Turkey appears to have been arrested in southern Turkey, Indonesian police said Thursday.
Commissioner General Badrodin Haiti, chief of the National Police, said officers were trying to determine if the 16 Indonesians arrested in the border city of Gaziantep were the same 16 who went missing from their tour group last month.
According to the Jakarta Post, the group is made up of three families and includes six children. It was part of a tour of 25 people arranged by Jakarta-based Smailing Tours travel agency.
The tour group arrived in Turkey on Feb. 24 and the 16 members were separated from the rest of the group as they passed through immigration. They had been due to return to Indonesia on March 5.
"The 16 who set out with Smailing Tour have not been found,” Badrodin said, quoted by the Detik news website. “Now there are 16 more who were arrested by the Turkish authorities."
He said police were still waiting to be told the arrestees' identities by the Indonesian Foreign Ministry before investigating "who they actually are and where they are from."
Since the group’s disappearance, there has been speculation that they travelled to Turkey to cross into Syria to join ISIL.
Badrodin said that it was possible some or all of the group had been travelling on false documents, although police had previously said they were using genuine passports.
Police are also investigating the Smailing Tour agency, he added.
According to the Kompas news outlet, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said: “We will further investigate the reports and will confirm if the identities of those detained match those of the missing Indonesians. The Indonesian embassy in Ankara is coordinating with the Turkish authorities to pursue the matter further.”
He said the Indonesian government had yet to receive any information about the 16 or their motivation for being in Gaziantep, around 45 kilometers (27 miles) north of the Syrian border, but added: "We will find out why they were trying to cross into Syria and whether they are affiliated with any radical group."
Ansyaad Mbai, the former head of Indonesia’s National Counter-Terrorism Agency, said six of the group were linked to a terrorist network in Indonesia.
"Six people from the group have relations with the terror network in Indonesia," he told. He declined to identify the six, saying it was “still a secret."
The missing group has also been investigated by Indonesia’s Detachment 88 counter-terrorism unit, the BeritaSatu website reported, citing a source within the unit.
One of the missing is said to be named Salim Mohammed Attamimi, who is allegedly a relative of Salim Mubarok Attamimi, also known as Abu Jandal, an Indonesian national who arrived in Syria with his family in March last year.
A Turkish diplomatic source said the 16 were arrested trying to cross into Syria and were being detained awaiting repatriation.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Mart 2015, 16:40