Indonesia on alert for jihadists returning from Syria

Don't allow homecoming extremists to import their brand of jihad from Syria, cleric warns.

By Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata and Aditya Surya for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

February 12, 2014
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Indonesian jihadists returning from the Syrian civil war could pose a national security threat, Indonesia's counterterrorism chief has warned.

  • Opposition forces prepare to storm the headquarters of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters in Aleppo, Syria on January 7th. Indonesian jihadists are among 8,000 foreigners fighting in the Syrian civil war. [Medo Halab/AFP]

    Opposition forces prepare to storm the headquarters of the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters in Aleppo, Syria on January 7th. Indonesian jihadists are among 8,000 foreigners fighting in the Syrian civil war. [Medo Halab/AFP]

Jihadists coming home from Afghanistan formed radical and terrorist groups, according to National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) head Ansyaad Mbai, and history could repeat itself.

"We fear they also may have been trained in Syria. We need to anticipate that upon their return. We should learn from our own bitter experiences of the past," he told Khabar Southeast Asia, adding that his agency would monitor the movements of newly returned Syrian war veterans.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, some 50 Indonesian militants are in Syria.

"We (got) the information from the Syrian intelligence, but we still can't confirm their whereabouts as they may have taken a non-procedural way to enter the country," Tatang Budi Utama Razak, the ministry's director of legal aid and protection for Indonesians abroad, told Khabar.

Responding to Syria veterans

The impact of returning jihadists will depend on many factors such as ideology and how communities respond to the Syrian veterans, former Indonesian Police Chief Da'i Bachtiar said.

The government could reach out to jihadists under BNPT surveillance and recruit them as part of a non-violent jihad to help develop the country, he suggested.

"Prevent them from being unemployed; get them involved in skilled job training or recruit them to work in accordance with their skills," Da'i told Khabar.

Central Jakarta cleric Muhammad Sutoyo called on fellow Muslims to be vigilant and not allow homecoming extremists to import their brand of jihad from Syria.

"Muslims have different interpretations of 'jihad'. However, we all must recognise that Islam teaches us to be tolerant and to love others. Therefore, whatever happened in Syria should not be brought home," he told Khabar.

Jemaah Islamiyah active in Syria: report

A recent report by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) examined Indonesian jihadist involvement in the Syrian conflict.

"As far as we know, the number of Indonesian combatants is still in the dozens, but it could climb," IPAC Director Sidney Jones said in a statement accompanying the report's January 29th release. "Jihadi humanitarian assistance teams now appear to be facilitating the entry of fighters as well."

Riza Fardi, also known as Abu Muhammad al-Indunisi, was killed in Syria last year, the report noted. Riza, from West Kalimantan, graduated from the Al-Mukmin Ngruki Islamic boarding school in Solo.

The most active Indonesian group in Syria is Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), which was responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings. Between late 2012 and January 2014, JI's humanitarian arm, the Hilal Ahmar Society of Indonesia (HASI), sent ten delegations to Syria to deliver medical aid and cash to the Islamic resistance, the report said.

"The danger remains that fighters returning from Syria could infuse new energy into Indonesia's weak and ineffectual jihadi movement," the IPAC study concluded.

Reader Comments
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    • Jambezh
      May 25, 2014 @ 12:05:03AM
    • How about this: if the infidels want religious freedom and the freedom of faith then let the true Muslims believe in their jihad for all of that is because of Allah and not because of you, infidels. Leave them be and don't harass them because harassing the mujahideen with your infidel ways is the same as you interfering in their business and to all the mujahideen, my prayers are always with you and in time I will join the fight with you. Amin ya rabbal alamin.
    • John Houtman
      May 2, 2014 @ 05:05:24AM
    • So the jihadists are coming home? Weren't they supposed to die in battle so they would become martyrs? This means that the jihadists who are coming home had cowered in battle. The war is not over and yet they are already returning home. What's going on?
    • gntolo
      May 1, 2014 @ 08:05:59AM
    • Even tigers become friendly when treated well, the jihadists should too.
    • Amsyi
      April 30, 2014 @ 03:04:37AM
    • What if we label the corrupt as terrorists? They are more cruel than terrorists, they don't discriminate between the old, the young, babies, male, female, everyone becomes a victim.
    • samuel
      April 28, 2014 @ 10:04:29PM
    • There is no need to call people infidels, look at yourself.
    • oke
      April 28, 2014 @ 02:04:59AM
    • I agree to Islam, If you don't accept Islam then the risk is yours to bear.
      April 27, 2014 @ 08:04:59AM
    • Assalamualaikum, actually, if we look at the history of the Prophet we see that what lies at the heart of struggle is dhikr and prayer. The thing is, Muslims have been deceived by love of the world, therefore their prayers are not easily granted by Allah. What is the priority when it comes to jihad? Does power and the prohibition of worship show strength?
    • bayi
      April 24, 2014 @ 08:04:21PM
    • The infidels are those who are wicked, those who like to force their will upon others, those who oppress and all who are vile and cruel. These exist in all religions, including the religion of people who read he.ho.hi.
    • sb. bajrey
      April 22, 2014 @ 05:04:05PM
    • In Indonesia the quantity of Muslims is the highest in the world but the quality of their Islam is minimal! Many of them are corrupt and stupid! They claim to be Muslims and yet they follow and take pleasure in infidel behaviors and end up labeling the mujahideen as terrorists. These are people whose bowel contents have taken the place of what should be in their heads.
    • fauzi
      April 22, 2014 @ 06:04:27AM
    • Arsyad Mbai and Sidney Jones like to talk a lot, don't be presumptuous! To the jihadists, target the corrupt and pedophiles! Don't let yourselves be persuaded to make bombs etc. because Indonesia is peaceful and religious country! You can make exceptions when it come to the corrupt and sexual abusers.
    • Nofita Sari
      April 20, 2014 @ 08:04:45PM
    • Why do we see the jihadists as being dangerous? If their return can rebuild other dormant jihadist groups for an Islamic Indonesia then why not?
    • hasan
      April 19, 2014 @ 05:04:44AM
    • Infidels always besmirch the meaning of jihad. Jihad is necessary to defend the oppressed, like in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The infidels are wreaking havoc while they themselves (America, Israel, and European countries) band together to kill the innocents in Iraq and Afghanistan. The infidels paint jihad in a bad light because they are afraid of being defeated by a united Islam. What the infidels want is for Islamic countries to be attacked without resistance: "no need for jihad, just stand idly by. Even if I (infidel) kill you (Muslim)". The are as devious as venomous snakes. Who killed innocent Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki? The infidels say nothing. Who killed millions of natives in America? Again, the infidels stay silent. Who killed millions of Iraqis and Afghans? The infidels are losers who can only provoke, they have no guts. Consider if Indonesia was attacked by Australia and Muslims unite to fight them, the infidels who defend the west would run and side with the enemy, the wimps, while their resources are being drained. They are stupid. So, does this mean that Indonesian Muslim fighters were terrorists because they waged war on the Dutch and Japan? If Islam fights back they are called terrorists. When America and infidel countries kill innocents, drop bombs everywhere, what do you call them? The Power Rangers? Idiots, that is how the devious do things, they provoke without seeing their own faults.
      April 17, 2014 @ 11:04:46AM
    • There is no terrorism in Islam but Muslims who are being threatened cannot be expected to just stand by and watch. If it is true that Islam is accused of terrorism then the question is why and because of whom? Someone must have started it {{B S H}}.
    • faqih
      April 17, 2014 @ 04:04:06AM
    • Perhaps they are labelled terrorists because of a philosophy: Islam is absolute, anything other than that must lose and can never pass Islam. There is a mission to achieve that goal by the extremists (who are certain of their brand of Islam). We would do well to fix ourselves. Regards.
    • rdn
      April 13, 2014 @ 07:04:46PM
    • Islam is not terrorism. Do not succumb to apathy. Cruelty and oppression are against Islam. We are not terrorists like the Zionists. Islam is a blessing for all of creation that upholds truth. Islam is not terrorism. It is all sadistic manipulation. Slander is also an insult used to take down Islam. Jihad..Jihad fi sabilillah. Laa ilahailallah
    • okabasidoma
      April 12, 2014 @ 07:04:45PM
    • Simply put, on the surface of the Earth, where the human colonies are, from the beginning until the end of times, there have only been two sides at war. They are Islam (Muslims) who live by the principles of Islam, and the infidels with their various principles. The war and enmity between the two sides has been going on for a long time, from the classical era to today and will continue on until the end of days. This is all predetermined by God (sunnatullah), this is the way it should be, to test humans on whether they can distinguish the straight and righteous from the deviant/unrighteous. There are various religions on this Earth but there is only one that was created by God for man and that is Islam. However, Islam does not force/mandate that humans must follow Islam, man is free and is given the freedom to follow their desires, to choose or even convert their religion, they are even allowed to not believe in God. Therefore, talking about war between people involving Muslims is not a new thing, it is outdated and can even be said as old as the fossils, and falls within the continuing series of wars from the classical era until today. Now all that is left is: which and whose side are you on? It is all up to you to choose and, of course, if you choose the wrong one, cursed hell will await you.
    • injek setan
      April 11, 2014 @ 09:04:32AM
    • It's true that the biggest jihad is to fight desires but jihad in the form of war is not wrong either. If the conditions call for jihad/war, then war it is, don't stand idly by like cowards. Read the history of the Prophet and his disciples and how they carried out jihad. The Roman and Persian empires would not have been defeated if it wasn't for jihad/war.
    • Rasidi
      April 6, 2014 @ 05:04:05AM
    • The most difficult jihad is against our desires, not killing others who don't share our principles, especially when they are still willing to cooperate. That is a violation of human rights.
    • afwul
      April 5, 2014 @ 12:04:13AM
    • Young people without the jihadist spirit are better off dead than alive (Musthofa Kamil, Egyptian thinker).
    • gess amaradja
      April 2, 2014 @ 04:04:54AM
    • Jihad is jihad but not in Syria. Not Palestine, no!
    • nunung nurhayati
      April 1, 2014 @ 03:04:33AM
    • Why do those who become terrorist always claim to do so in the name of Islam?
    • polem
      April 4, 2014 @ 07:04:33AM
    • Islam does not equal terrorism because Islam does not teach people to commit terrorism. Terrorists are terrorists, there has been a misunderstanding of Islam which has given rise to the notion that Islam is synonymous with terrorism. This is caused by a lack of knowledge about Islam. Islam teaches peace and love.
    • respati jenar
      April 8, 2014 @ 11:04:49AM
    • Only to seek support and a refuge because Muslims in Indonesia are greater in number.
    • kholil
      April 12, 2014 @ 03:04:21AM
    • Because Islam is the one that teaches the concept of terrorism within its sharia but is in the context of the past. People today tend to interpret jihad as a call to go to war against non-Muslims and that is one of the factors as to why terrorists always act under the umbrella of Islam. What you need to know is that jihad has not always been so rigidly interpreted by Muslims. If we look at the history of the Muslim civilization that arose after Alexander the Great, more widely known as Iskandar Zulkarnain by Muslims, it is difficult to make an argument for the interpretation of jihad as a medium for fighting non-Muslims. We recall that the Romans were once conquered by Muslims through jihad (war) and so the Romans were controlled by Muslims. This is one point made by terrorists as to why they choose the path of war or choose to exterminate non-Muslims within a country. Their purpose, analysed on a global scale, is none other than to repeat history so that Islam can prevail everywhere. But one aspect they never consider is that control systems exist in many countries, therefore this wretchedness creates a phenomenon that is abstract in nature. Therefore, errors in assessing a system can give rise to major problems; from what we know, many terrorists in neighboring countries have been captured by the police or military. My advice is to reflect before criticizing.
    • udin_mahmuda
      March 29, 2014 @ 04:03:03AM
    • Ha ha ha, useless propaganda. I pity you, your life is insecure, frightened by fear. If you are afraid of those people coming here, then it is you who should leave this country. We don't need people like you, cronies of America. Your writing is nonsense, it has no effect on the readers, you think you are so smart. You are prejudiced, you idiot.
    • Anwar
      March 28, 2014 @ 10:03:44PM
    • What we must be wary of are leaders whose faiths are feeble, those who put worldly interests before the afterlife. They poison the people, leading their own people into hell with their policies. Jihad is a religious matter, not a worldly one. Being hated and suspected by the government, who are acting like infidels, should not make us sad and restless. Stay faithful. Insyaallah.
    • m rizal
      March 28, 2014 @ 09:03:34PM
    • Hello, do not misinterpret jihad, bro. Yes, right now it is still necessary to continue physical jihad/war but only in Palestine. In other places it is still political so the only way you are helping in Syria is by becoming their puppet.
    • Abdullah
      April 3, 2014 @ 08:04:30PM
    • If you do not yet know the issues surrounding Syria, find out. You say it's just a political issues? It is a religious matter, bro. How stupid you are to travel that far if it was only a political issue? They go because they are well prepared about the problems over there, not just taking off recklessly. Their purpose is to become martyrs, not to die in a stupid manner. Long live the Mujahideen.
    • ade
      March 28, 2014 @ 06:03:52PM
    • Clerics in our country support heretics, they do not know what is required by Allah. Come back, clerics, do not be led astray by the worldly. Repent.
    • putra elang
      March 28, 2014 @ 05:03:06PM
    • Yes, indeed terrorism originates from Muslim countries.
    • san
      April 15, 2014 @ 07:04:55PM
    • Yes and they are coming after people like you, idiot.
    • zam uddin
      March 27, 2014 @ 09:03:09PM
    • Evil will never be extinguished, that is true. Fight in the name of Islam, fight for jihad.
    • Julidar
      March 27, 2014 @ 09:03:45PM
    • If those who come home have good intentions, why wouldn't we welcome them? However, if they create trouble we should give them guidance. After all, they are our brothers. What we need to think about now is how to eradicate the severe rampant corruption in our country and other crimes such as narcotics, oppression of underage children and harassment against women. That is all.
    • oman
      April 3, 2014 @ 11:04:02PM
    • I agree, Mr. Julidar. Why are the leaders of this republic making a big issue out of unverified news? Let us, as the people of Indonesia, carry out jihad on the corrupt who has taken the nation's money and making the Indonesian people miserable.
    • wawan
      March 25, 2014 @ 09:03:51PM
    • It must be great if those jihadists were recruited as KPK investigators. Corrupt people will be shaking in their boots.
    • wawan
      March 25, 2014 @ 09:03:17PM
    • Why isn't jihad being interpreted from the economic, technological and educational aspects? We are not currently overtaken by violence but rather by those aspects. With that in mind, why not fight back using those aspects and not violence which ultimately lead us to turn against each other, kill, slaughter, and destroy our one homeland. Try to capitalize on our potential first, then we will get to a place where the Indonesian demographic is able to conquer the world.
    • Bayu
      April 19, 2014 @ 10:04:54PM
    • That is right, bro, countering violence with violence is the least likely path to victory.
    • tius
      March 24, 2014 @ 07:03:43AM
    • He is our brother, why would you send him away? If he receives good guidance the result will also be good.
    • mawar hitam
      April 7, 2014 @ 08:04:22PM
    • You are the one who do not understand jihad. My brothers, jihad is not only when we are invaded by infidel forces. Even today, without realizing it, we are being invaded by our own country.
    • hamba
      March 13, 2014 @ 07:03:49PM
    • The admin are worse than terrorists.
    • suratno
      March 13, 2014 @ 10:03:36AM
    • Come let us jihad (with all our hearts) against desire.
    • donyboy66
      March 13, 2014 @ 02:03:46AM
    • The corrupt are the true terrorists. We don't even hand them heavy punishments to them, let alone the death sentence, but rather, they are given pardons. This is a mismanaged country, step down if you are unable to lead with a firm hand.
    • joi joi.
      March 12, 2014 @ 08:03:42PM
    • Setiawan is an infidel, it is no wonder he hates the Islamic religion.
    • james
      March 22, 2014 @ 11:03:58PM
    • Are you sure that is the case? What religion do the terrorists practice? Actions that terrorize others deserve to be hated.
    • putra elang
      March 28, 2014 @ 05:03:03PM
    • They are Muslims because they come from a Muslim country.
    • Ganasmoro
      March 10, 2014 @ 02:03:04PM
    • The source of terrorism is Wahabi Bahlul bin Jahiliyah, all the others are nothing but its fragments. Eradicating terrorism without destroying its source would be inconsequential.
    • koko
      March 10, 2014 @ 03:03:31AM
    • That Setyawan is stupid.
    • Laskar Syuhada
      March 8, 2014 @ 10:03:56AM
    • Jihad will never be extinguished wherever there is Islam, remember that.
    • Faezal
      March 1, 2014 @ 04:03:55AM
    • Who are the "real" terrorists? 1. Is it Israel, America, or other western nations that discredit Muslims by making them synonymous with terrorists? 2. Muslims who kill their fellow Muslims over differences in denomination? (When Islam is in actuality peaceful)
    • asamson
      February 28, 2014 @ 02:02:01AM
    • What we must be wary of as we approach the general elections are the western religion minorities and the non-Muslim ethnic Chinese creating a stir, employing guerrilla tactics and taking advantage of opportunities to rape the original culture and history by exercising their influence with money on the candidates and taking advantage of their power (after entering the country they become very rich, their initial intention was to work). Thus, these rulers will act with impunity without regard to the Sultanates that have been oppressed, deceived, made to be ignorant and discarded, those who left us this country's heavenly soil. These kings are the forefathers of this country who should be respected and have their rightful place, and yet the ethnic Chinese are shoehorned and elevated to the status of native citizens when they are not. Rulers who are supposed to be responsible are prideful of their power, prideful of their pomp, and prideful of their cleverness during the Gus Dur, Megawati and SBY era after the minorities had already raped the majority native citizens and made a bid to be regarded as equals. Then came tolerance, democracy, Unity in Diversity, misunderstandings of the Unified Republic of Indonesia that are not in line with culture and history in this country which prevailed when the Majapahit through to the Sultanates and the Nine Guides were still of one bloodline, with fair leadership of Hinduism and Buddhism perfected by a very tolerant Islam. The proof: around the Kudus tower there are many non-Muslim communities, also around Sunan Ampel in Surabaya. To this day they live comfortably and without harassment but the leader then was the Demak sultanate and other sultanates. Therefore, restore Islam, which in its own habitat protects minorities. If left to their own devices, minorities will continue to cause unrest, continue barking, slandering, poking around, flinging dirt, even though they are given latitude they want more. Therefore, Islam must be restored.
    • [email protected]
      March 29, 2014 @ 11:03:21AM
    • Ha ha ha, frustrated!
    • Joko
      February 24, 2014 @ 06:02:22PM
    • The real terrorist is named Sidney Jones, slandering Muslims and sowing discord among them.
    • Johny
      April 21, 2014 @ 11:04:54AM
    • They're infidels calling others infidels. The infidel teaches to kill. A true religion teaches to love love one another. That's how it is, bro.
    • Adin KOKAM
      February 23, 2014 @ 08:02:06PM
    • Indonesia names itself a republic, yet it is more secular than other secular countries because the Indonesian nation is afraid of the word jihad, when it was jihad that drove away the Dutch, Japanese and other invaders.
    • wifa@
      March 1, 2014 @ 12:03:35AM
    • That's very true.
    • tamar
      March 15, 2014 @ 11:03:57AM
    • The problem is that jihad used to be civilized and now it is barbaric.
    • Acobenuang
      March 30, 2014 @ 11:03:52AM
    • right, right, right.
    • mahyuddin
      February 23, 2014 @ 10:02:20AM
    • What we must be wary of are the Shia in Indonesia, they are more dangerous than terrorists.
    • Mudofar Mafani
      February 22, 2014 @ 11:02:06AM
    • What is the latest news on Indonesian workers in Syria? My relative gave word that they would be home in two weeks but have not arrived yet. The government should take action.
    • doel
      February 22, 2014 @ 07:02:09AM
    • Allah, grant entry into Your heaven those who carry out jihad on your path to seek for Your blessing, and ease the way for Indonesian Muslims who wish to undertake jihad on Your path, Aziz.
    • sucipto
      February 21, 2014 @ 06:02:53PM
    • There is no such thing as terrorists, there are only fighters. Remember the history of Indonesia before the independence: the Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese called the fighters - our heroes - as terrorists for fighting against injustice. It was also the case for Indonesian marines, Osman and Harun, they were fighters but Singapore called them terrorists. So, what is the difference between a fighter and a terrorist? My brothers, Indonesia has achieved peace so let us preserve it so we can achieve progress in development and become equal to other developed nations.
    • dono
      February 21, 2014 @ 12:02:21PM
    • When the understanding of a religion comes only from disjointed verses and hadith it will lead to misinterpretation. The point is that jihad should not be taken too far, make our parents happy, especially our mothers, and then our fathers. Or, we can jihad against our desires which is the best thing. Forgive me if I am mistaken, please correct me for I am still an infidel. Thank you.
    • tau lah..
      February 21, 2014 @ 07:02:13AM
    • I have never heard of non-Islamic terrorists. They die even though they are officially only suspects. There is no accurate data. Do you know what happened to Muslims in Poso? Infidels attack using debauchery and pleasure, thus the true Muslims become depressed and naturally engage in bombings. That is why all of you Islamic high officials, members and underlings, "use your brain" don't highlight cases that causes commotion on television.
    • muslim
      February 19, 2014 @ 12:02:40AM
    • Greetings my brothers, there is no such thing as a terrorist Islam, what we see are the actions of a few elements that happen to have Islam as their religion and it is not consistent with religious teachings. Therefore: 1. Let us fortify ourselves with the Quran and the Sunnah and 2. Mass media should present news about Islam that is balanced and proportional, with deference to journalism ethics.
    • mawardi
      March 7, 2014 @ 09:03:38PM
    • I strongly agree, all our actions must adhere to the Qur'an and the prophet's Sunnah. God willing, may we be safe in the afterlife.
    • abdullah
      March 26, 2014 @ 04:03:49AM
    • Hail to my Muslim brothers, it is true that there is no such thing as Islam terrorists, there are only infidel terrorists. We would do well to once again open the Al-Quran and Hadith, the core of which is: Muslims should not set out to make enemies but should an enemy arise, they cannot run away. Okay?
    • Mang Toing
      February 17, 2014 @ 05:02:53AM
    • The terrorist is the one called Setyawan, a big time fugitive.
    • nazar lat
      February 13, 2014 @ 11:02:44PM
    • The thing that must be monitored and addressed are the pioneers of depravity, they compromise the morality of believers and continuously strive to promote programs that divert Muslims from Islamic morals and the Muslim faith. They are given the ease and freedom by the authorities and supported and made lawful by the clerics of the Dajjal. Syrian veterans should be welcomed and given the opportunity to tell their experiences in their jihad mission. Hold discussions with scholarly clerics when we feel like there are philosophies that reject the principles, not disagreements with the government’s desires.
    • setyawan
      February 12, 2014 @ 03:02:27AM
    • Islamic terrorism such as: Taliban, Al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Ikhwanul Muslimin, Jihad Islam, Jammah Islamiyah, Hizbullah, Al-Shabaab
    • wawan
      February 15, 2014 @ 09:02:51AM
    • To Setiawan: You don't know anything about them, mate! Don't comment if you know nothing!
    • Usamah Bin Laden
      February 21, 2014 @ 11:02:44AM
    • The real terrorists are America and Israel. You are stupid, you get information from American news adapted by secular media. A peaceful country will undergo upheaval when these countries invade.
    • dadam
      February 21, 2014 @ 10:02:34PM
    • Are you a Muslim?
    • bargo
      February 28, 2014 @ 11:02:44PM
    • Know-it-all.
    • taopik s
      March 6, 2014 @ 11:03:44AM
    • Those who want to go home are jihadists. Indonesians are our brothers, let us welcome them with open arms. The government is really worried and yet they are not worried about releasing a narcotics queen.
    • max
      April 1, 2014 @ 12:04:13AM
    • Setyawan: That's good, keep turning up the heat on them, if you're re not being paid enough I will give you more. If necessary, I will give you a prostitute from Monas. The point is you should continue to bait them and heat things up. The more heated their comments become, the more you will be paid. Bravo, Setyawan.
    • [email protected]
      April 4, 2014 @ 06:04:30AM
    • I pity your brain, it is so American. Did you think before saying that?

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