JAKARTA - Indonesian authorities are working with their counterparts in China to stem a flow of ethnic Uighur militants seeking to join Islamist jihadists in the world's most populous Muslim country, Indonesia's counter-terrorism chief said.
Saud Usman Nasution's comments come amid mounting concern in Indonesia about possible attacks by sympathizers of the Islamic State group and follows the arrest of 13 men across the island of Java, including a Muslim Uighur with a suicide-bomb vest.
The appearance among Indonesian militant networks of Uighurs, who come from the Xinjiang region in far-western China, is likely to add to Beijing's concerns that exiles will return to their homeland as experienced and trained jihadists.
China says Islamist militants and separatists operate in energy-rich Xinjiang on the borders of central Asia, where violence has killed hundreds in recent years.
Rights groups say much of the unrest can be traced back to frustration at controls over the Uighurs' culture and religion, and that most of those who leave are only fleeing repression not seeking to wage jihad. China denies repressing rights.
Nasution, who heads the National Counter-Terrorism Agency, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday that several Uighurs had responded to a call last year by Santoso, Indonesia's most high-profile backer of Islamic State, to join his band of fighters.
Islamic State and human trafficking networks helped them travel via Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia to Santoso's hideout in an equatorial jungle of eastern Indonesia, he said.
However, the would-be suicide bomber arrested on Dec. 23 was hiding in a house just outside the capital, Jakarta.