SE Asia faces threat of Is­lamic State-styled terror at­tacks

In­dia warns of IS threat, tight­ens vigil at em­bassies

Kuwait Times - - INTERNAT IONAL -

KUALA LUMPUR: South­east Asia faces the threat of Is­lamic State-in­spired at­tacks de­signed to “glam­or­ize ter­ror­ism”, a Malaysian min­is­ter said yes­ter­day, voic­ing fears of bat­tle-hard­ened fight­ers re­turn­ing from Syria to launch Paris­style at­tacks. In Septem­ber, Malaysian po­lice thwarted a plot to det­o­nate bombs in Kuala Lumpur’s vi­brant tourist area of Bukit Bin­tang. Other re­cent plots frus­trated by Malaysian se­cu­rity forces in­cluded plans to raid army camps and seize weapons.

“I think the Paris sit­u­a­tion can also be trans­planted here, in South­east Asia, where we also have fer­tile ground for re­cruit­ment of such op­er­a­tives who will re­ceive di­rec­tives from Syria to carry out at­tacks,” Nur Ja­zlan Mo­hamed, Malaysia’s deputy home min­is­ter, said in an in­ter­view. “Such at­tacks, they hope, will glam­or­ize ter­ror­ism and there­fore at­tract more peo­ple to join their cause,” he said, sin­gling out tourist and en­ter­tain­ment cen­ters in the re­gion as a fa­vored tar­gets. Ter­ror­ism is high on the agenda of world lead­ers gath­ered in Manila for the Asi­aPa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion (APEC) sum­mit in the wake of the deadly at­tacks in Paris that killed at least 129 peo­ple.

And the min­is­ter’s com­ments fol­low news of the ex­e­cu­tion this week of a Malaysian businessman in the Philip­pines by Abu Sayyaf, and Is­lamist mil­i­tant group that had past links to AlQaeda but has more re­cently shown sup­port for Is­lamic State. Es­ti­mates sug­gests that more that 500 In­done­sians, over 40 Malaysians and a hand­ful of Sin­ga­pore­ans have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq. Hun­dreds of oth­ers were ar­rested or de­tained be­fore they could leave the coun­try. In Malaysia, 150 terror sus­pects have been ar­rested

since Is­lamic State rose to promi­nence in 2013.

IS fran­chise

Counter-ter­ror­ism will doubt­less be on the agenda when South­east Asian leader gather in Kuala Lumpur next week for a re­gional sum­mit, and se­cu­rity has been ratch­eted up in the Malaysian cap­i­tal. “We have up­graded our se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion at im­mi­gra­tion to make sure there are no sus­pi­cious for­eign­ers com­ing into coun­try and ac­ti­vated anti-ter­ror­ism unit lo­cally,” Nur Ja­zlan said. En­force­ment of­fi­cials and se­cu­rity ex­perts fear Malaysian mil­i­tants hid­ing in Southern Philip­pines are try­ing to bring to­gether groups in Malaysia, In­done­sia and Philip­pines to form a re­gional branch of Is­lamic State.

Je­maah Is­lamiyah (JI), the al Qaeda linked group that car­ried out the Bali bomb­ings in 2002 that killed over 200 peo­ple, that could be used to build a net­work. JI has been most ac­tive in In­done­sia, but has had cells in sev­eral other South­east Asian coun­tries, whereas there is an ar­ray of smaller Is­lamist mil­i­tant groups, like Abu Sayyaf, op­er­at­ing more lo­cally in the re­gion. “Th­ese groups are just look­ing for an um­brella or­ga­ni­za­tion and IS is be­com­ing that or­gan­i­sa­tion for th­ese dis­parate and sep­a­rate groups to get to­gether,” said Nur Ja­zlan.

Sid­ney Jones, the head of the Jakarta-based In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Anal­y­sis of Con­flict and an re­gional ex­pert on ter­ror­ism is­sues said there is in­creas­ing pres­sure from In­done­sian and Philip­pine supporters of IS to de­clare a prov­ince of IS in South­east Asia that would cover In­done­sia, the Philip­pines, Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore. “So far In­done­sian would-be ter­ror­ists have been pretty in­com­pe­tent and their Philip­pine coun­ter­parts have been mostly in­ter­ested in money,” she said. “If we got a few ex­pe­ri­enced pro­fes­sion­als com­ing back from Syria to train lo­cal groups, that could be the gamechanger.”

In­dia warns, tight­ens vigil

In an­other de­vel­op­ment, In­dia has warned of Is­lamic State us­ing re­gional mil­i­tant groups to mount strikes in the coun­try, and has in­creased se­cu­rity around the diplo­matic mis­sions of the United States, France and Bri­tain among oth­ers, a gov­ern­ment ad­vi­sory said. The fed­eral in­te­rior min­istry said in the note is­sued to state po­lice chiefs that Fri­day’s at­tacks in Paris in which 129 peo­ple were killed showed the in­ten­tions of Is­lamic State to ex­pand its arc of oper­a­tions be­yond Syria and Iraq. De­spite In­dia’s large Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion, Is­lamic State has only been able to draw a hand­ful of re­cruits from the coun­try, al­though se­cu­rity of­fi­cials say they don’t have a full pic­ture, and that there could be more youth get­ting rad­i­cal­ized.

But some of the world’s dead­li­est mil­i­tant groups, in­clud­ing the Pak­istan-based Lashkar-eTaiba that car­ried out the Mum­bai 2008 at­tacks, op­er­ate in In­dia, and the fear is Is­lamic State might turn to them to tar­get for­eign in­ter­ests in the coun­try. “Though ISIS/ISIL has not been able to es­tab­lish any sig­nif­i­cant pres­ence in In­dia, its suc­cess in rad­i­cal­iz­ing some youth, at­tract­ing cer­tain sec­tion of the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion/In­dian di­as­pora... or the pos­si­bil­ity of pig­gy­back­ing on ter­ror­ist groups op­er­at­ing in In­dia have opened up the pos­si­bil­ity of ISIS spon­sored ac­tion on In­dian ter­ri­tory,” the note said. — Agen­cies

KOLKATA: In­dian youth march in a silent rally to protest against Fri­day’s Paris at­tacks, in Kolkata, In­dia yes­ter­day. Mul­ti­ple at­tacks across Paris on Fri­day night have left more than one hun­dred dead and many more in­jured. — AP

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