Two airline pilots 'radicalised by Isis pose major threat'

Australian Federal Police (AFP) believe two Indonesian pilots pose a major security threat after being radicalised by Isis, according to a leaked intelligence report, obtained by the Intercept, an investigative website today.

The two men, formally identified as Ridwan Agustin and Tommy Hendratno, have been monitored by the AFP since September 2014 after they began posting messages in support of the so-called Islamic State and connecting with pro-Isis accounts. The report is titled: "Identification of Indonesian pilots with possible extremist persuasions" and is dated 18 March, 2015.

The AFP claim that Agustin, who formerly worked for low-cost airline AirAsia, frequently flying to destinations such as Hong Kong and Singapore, began showing signs of radicalisation in September last year when he begun sharing "extremist related articles" on Facebook.

It was about this time that Agustin befriended the second pilot, Tommy Hendratno, on Facebook. Hendratno is a former Indonesian navy pilot who worked for Premiair and has flown to international destinations including Australia, the US and Europe. He ceased working for Premiair on 1 June.

An AirAsian spokesperson has confirmed that Agustin no longer works for the airline and in mid-March Agustin reportedly listed his "current city" as Raqqa, Syria on Facebook.

The Australian police monitored the two pilots' interactions with each other and with other pro-Isis profiles, noting that Hendratno changed his name to Tommy Abu Alfatih on Facebook. The two men also communicated with Indonesian fighters who had travelled out to Syria to fight with Isis.

Sidney Jones, the director of the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, an organization tracking Indonesian foreign fighters in Isis, told the Intercept: "It makes a lot of sense that the Australians would be extremely nervous," and said that in the last few months there had been a marked increased in the number of Indonesians fighting with the terror group.

Jones said that between 1 March and 1 June, 2015, 44 Indonesians have been killed in Syria and Iraq.

The AFP report concluded that the two pilots "both appear to be influenced by pro-Isis elements including extremist online propaganda by well-known radical Indonesia outlets and a suspected Indonesian terrorist fighter who is likely to be in either Syria or Iraq."

It also emphasised the threat of pilots becoming radicalised by terrorist groups, citing a recent edition of the al-Qaeda magazine Inspire, which encouraged aviation attacks by those with working knowledge of the aviation industry.

Raffaello Pantucci, director of International Security Studies at defence thinktank The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) says the implications of pilots being radicalised could be "catastrophic" but says he believes that the danger of them carrying out attacks on home soil is limited.

"In many cases, those radicalised by Isis do not want to stay at home and launch spontaneous attacks, they want to go out to the country [Syria] and see if for themselves," he says. "They want to personally participate in the fighting".

Unlike al-Qaeda, Isis have never directly called for aviation attacks, although Pantucci points out that, "the group is of course keen for people to try and launch all types of attacks that will instigate chaos and misery and this could be the perfect vehicle for it."

The AFP issued the following statement but declined to comment further: "The AFP maintains strong relationships with its domestic and foreign law enforcement partners to ensure the ongoing safety of Australians both within Australia and abroad."