Man­hunt for Is­lamic State sus­pects in Asia

The Australian - - THE NATION - PRIMROSE RIOR­DAN

Malaysian po­lice are hunt­ing three Malaysians and one Thai na­tional who are be­lieved to be mem­bers of an Is­lamic State cell and ac­cused of plan­ning at­tacks and mur­der­ing po­lice of­fi­cers.

The man­hunt comes amid grow­ing con­cern about the re­turn of for­eign fighters af­ter the col­lapse of Is­lamic State in the Mid­dle East and con­tin­u­ing Is­lamic State linked at­tacks in The Philip­pines.

Malaysia’s po­lice chief Mo­hamad Fuzi Harun this week said four mem­bers of a cell re­mained on the run, were “dan­ger­ous” and “ca­pa­ble of launch­ing at­tacks that could pose a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity”.

Asked about re­cent events, For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop said Aus­tralia was con­cerned about the rise of “ex­trem­ist net­works” in the re­gion.

“The Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment is con­cerned that ex­pe­ri­enced and mo­ti­vated for­eign fighters could be re­turn­ing from con­flicts in Syria and Iraq, to join ex­trem­ist net­works in our re­gion,’’ she said.

“To com­bat this threat, at the re­cent ASEAN-Aus­tralia sum­mit, we signed a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions to con­front vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism and de­feat ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions.”

The emer­gence of a Thai na­tional sus­pect is no­table as Thai au­thor­i­ties have talked down the pos­si­bil­ity that the con­tin­u­ing con­flict along their Malaysian bor­der was be­ing ex­ploited by Is­lamic State.

Malaysian po­lice said the man, Awae Wae-Eya, was from Narathi­wat prov­ince in southern Thai­land.

Thai Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-o-cha last year said he had no in­for­ma­tion sug­gest­ing Is­lamic State mem­bers were ac­tive in southern Thai­land, and a re­cent In­ter­na­tional Cri­sis Group re­port said there was no ev­i­dence ji­hadists were “mak­ing in­roads among the sep­a­ratists”.

South­east Asian news out­let Be­narNews re­ported that four men were be­lieved to be hid­ing in southern Thai­land and quoted Malaysian counter-ter­ror­ism an­a­lyst Ah­mad El-Muham­mady as say­ing the events should be a warn­ing for Thai au­thor­i­ties.

“They have to start curb­ing this prob­lem … be­fore it blows from just sev­eral in­di­vid­ual IS op­er­a­tives into a full-fledged net­work that threat­ens na­tional and re­gional se­cu­rity,” he said.

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