Is­lamic State tac­tics start to gain ground

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MANILA — A threat by Philip­pine mil­i­tants to kill a Ger­man hostage in a show of sol­i­dar­ity with Is­lamic State is the lat­est sign that the Mid­dle East group’s brand of rad­i­cal­ism is win­ning re­cruits in Asia and pos­ing a grow­ing se­cu­rity risk in the re­gion.

Over 100 peo­ple from South­east Asia’s Mus­lim majority coun­tries of In­done­sia and Malaysia and the south­ern Philip­pine re­gion are be­lieved by se­cu­rity of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts to have gone to join Is­lamic State’s fight in Iraq and Syria. Malaysian and In­done­sian mil­i­tants...

...have dis­cussed form­ing a 100strong Malay-speak­ing unit within Is­lamic State in Syria, ac­cord­ing to a re­port from a well­known se­cu­rity group re­leased this week.

Ad­mi­ral Sa­muel Lock­lear, who heads the US Armed Forces’ Pa­cific Com­mand, said on Thurs­day around 1,000 re­cruits from In­dia to the Pa­cific may have joined Is­lamic State to fight in Syria or Iraq. He did not spec­ify the coun­tries or give a time-frame.

“That num­ber could get larger as we go for­ward, ” Lock­lear told re­porters at the Pen­tagon. In ad­di­tion to In­dia, the Hawaii- based Pa­cific Com­mand’s area of re­spon­si­bil­ity cov­ers 36 coun­tries, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia, China and other Pa­cific Ocean states. The com­mand does not cover Pak­istan.

In the re­gion, thou­sands have sworn oaths of loy­alty to Is­lamic State as lo­cal mil­i­tant groups cap­i­talise on a brand that has been fu­elled by vi­o­lent on­line videos and calls to ji­had through so­cial me­dia, se­cu­rity an­a­lysts say. Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials say this has disturbing im­pli­ca­tions for the re­gion, es­pe­cially when bat­tle­hard­ened fight­ers re­turn home from the Mid­dle East.

The Philip­pines ’ Abu Sayyaf group, which has ear­lier claimed links with alQaeda and is led by a on­earmed sep­tu­a­ge­nar­ian, has threat­ened to kill one of the two Ger­mans it holds hostage by Oc­to­ber 10, ac­cord­ing to mes­sages dis­trib­uted on Twit­ter.

As well as US$5.6 bil­lion in ran­som, the group de­manded that Ger­many halt its support for the US-led bomb- ing cam­paign launched against Is­lamic State this week.

A spokes­woman for the Ger­man for­eign min­istry told a reg­u­lar press brief­ing in Berlin that “threats are no ap­pro­pri­ate way of in­flu­enc­ing Ger­man for­eign pol­icy,” and that the min­istry’s cri­sis group was work­ing on the case.

The Abu Sayyaf, which be­headed a US man it had taken hostage in 2001, has suf­fered from dwin­dling support and mil­i­tary set­backs over the past decade, and is now be­lieved to have only about 300 fol­low­ers based on re­mote is­lands off the south­ern Philip­pines. —

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