US con­cern over IS group’s SE Asia ex­pan­sion

The Myanmar Times - - World -

IS­LAMIC State ji­hadists are eye­ing ex­pan­sion into South­east Asia by join­ing forces with lo­cal ex­trem­ists, a se­nior US coun­tert­er­ror­ism of­fi­cial has warned.

The IS has a his­tory of part­ner­ing with mil­i­tant groups around the world, in­clud­ing in Egypt, Libya and Nige­ria, and wants to broaden its reach in the re­gion, ac­cord­ing to Justin Siberell, act­ing co­or­di­na­tor for coun­tert­er­ror­ism at the US State De­part­ment.

“My un­der­stand­ing is that they have looked at ex­ist­ing groups across the re­gion,” Mr Siberell said in a

con­fer­ence call from Wash­ing­ton with Asia-based jour­nal­ists.

“There have been peo­ple that have pledged af­fil­i­a­tion and al­le­giance to IS at the group level,” he said.

“We’re cer­tainly con­cerned about that. We’re con­cerned about the rise of new IS af­fil­i­ates and we’re work­ing with govern­ments to do what they can to pre­vent that.”

Mr Siberell also noted that militants from South­east Asia fight­ing with the IS in Iraq and Syria have been de­ployed in a unit called the Kat­i­bah Nu­san­tara, and could pose a threat when they even­tu­ally re­turn to their home coun­tries.

“We’re cer­tainly con­cerned about IS’ abil­ity to ex­pand or to es­tab­lish branches,” he said.

There have been only rel­a­tively mi­nor at­tacks and plots blamed on IS af­fil­i­ates in the re­gion, but an­a­lysts fear the group could be­come more ef­fec­tive and ag­gres­sive.

In­done­sian po­lice ear­lier this month ar­rested six sus­pected militants over a plot to launch a rocket at­tack on an up-mar­ket Sin­ga­pore wa­ter­front dis­trict from the nearby In­done­sian is­land of Batam.

The sus­pects’ al­leged leader, Gigih Rah­mat Dewa, is ac­cused of plan­ning the at­tack with Bahrun Naim, a lead­ing In­done­sian mil­i­tant who is be­lieved to be fight­ing with IS in Syria.

In Jan­uary IS-linked militants launched a deadly gun and bomb at­tack in Jakarta which left four at­tack­ers and four civil­ians dead.

Sin­ga­pore on Au­gust 19 an­nounced it had de­tained two men un­der its tough in­ter­nal se­cu­rity law af­ter dis­cov­er­ing they in­tended to travel to Syria to fight for IS. –

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