SE Asia faces rising threat from IS groups

The Myanmar Times - - World -

SOUTH­EAST Asia faces a growing risk of ex­trem­ist vi­o­lence as Is­lamic State group sup­port­ers in­creas­ingly work to­gether, but law en­force­ment agen­cies are un­pre­pared for the new threat, a re­port warned.

The main dan­ger lies in the strife­torn south­ern Philip­pines, where a hand­ful of Is­lamic ex­trem­ist groups have sworn al­le­giance to the IS, ac­cord­ing to the re­port from think tank the In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Anal­y­sis of Con­flict (IPAC).

The groups have links to other parts of the re­gion, par­tic­u­larly In­done­sia and Malaysia, and the IS has en­dorsed a Philip­pines-based mil­i­tant as “amir”, or leader, for South­east Asia, the re­port said.

“ISIS has deep­ened co­op­er­a­tion among ex­trem­ist groups in South­east Asia,” said the re­port, us­ing an­other name for the IS, adding the trend had widened the “ex­trem­ist re­cruit­ment pool” and opened new chan­nels for in­ter­na­tional fund­ing.

“More deadly vi­o­lence in the Philip­pines in­volv­ing al­liances of pro-ISIS groups is a mat­ter of when, not if. It may also in­crease cross-bor­der ex­trem­ist op­er­a­tions.”

How­ever it noted that “most law en­force­ment agen­cies re­tain a strongly na­tional ori­en­ta­tion, without in-house ex­per­tise on groups out­side their own bor­ders”.

While the IS is rapidly los­ing ter­ri­tory in Iraq and Syria, the ef­fect may be to in­crease the risk of re­venge at­tacks in South­east Asia, said the re­port by Jakarta-based IPAC.

Parts of South­east Asia have long strug­gled with Is­lamic mil­i­tancy and hun­dreds of rad­i­cals from the re­gion have flocked to join IS.

South­east Asians fight­ing for the ji­hadists have formed their own unit in the Mid­dle East, called Kat­i­bah Nu­san­tara, and are be­lieved to be in con­tact with mil­i­tants back home.

The re­gion suf­fered its first IS at­tack in Jan­uary when ex­trem­ists launched a deadly sui­cide bomb­ing and gun as­sault in Jakarta.

The IPAC re­port ex­am­ined four pro-IS groups in the south­ern Philip­pine re­gion of Min­danao and their links to neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.

It said the Maute group, which is ac­cused of car­ry­ing out a bomb­ing in the south­ern town of Davao in Septem­ber that killed 15 peo­ple, had the “smartest, best-ed­u­cated and most so­phis­ti­cated mem­bers”. –

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