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Islamic State (ISIS) Militant Group to Soon have a Strong Hold in Southeast Asia : Report

Analysts say as Islamic State (IS) militants are losing ground in Syria and Iraq, the terror group is attempting to expand in Southeast Asia

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An Islamic group member covers his face with Hizbut Tahrir flag during a protest against the decree allowing the government to disband organizations deemed to run counter to the secular state, in Jakarta, Indonesia
An Islamic group member covers his face with Hizbut Tahrir flag during a protest against the decree allowing the government to disband organizations deemed to run counter to the secular state, in Jakarta, Indonesia. VOA
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  • A number of IS affiliates from Indonesia have reportedly crossed into the Philippines to support the local militants
  • In the Philippines, Islamic State (IS)  has endorsed Isnilon Hapilon – the country’s most-wanted man who has a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the US
  • Ridwan Habib warned that the situation could get worse if the ongoing conflict in Marawi is not tackled and managed properly

Philippines, August 30, 2017: Government security forces in the Philippines city of Marawi have been fighting for the past three months to rout militants suspected of ties to the Islamic State (IS) militant group in the region.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in May declared the country’s restive south under the martial rule for 60 days – which, in July, was extended through the end of the year – after an attempt by security forces to capture an Islamic State (IS) -linked militant leader failed. That set off clashes that left the city under siege.

A number of IS affiliates from Indonesia have reportedly crossed into the Philippines to support the local militants who are fighting against the Philippines military in the Marawi region.

Analysts say as Islamic State (IS) militants are losing ground in Syria and Iraq, the terror group is attempting to expand in Southeast Asia, which is home to a number of separatist and militant groups.

“This is an evidence that the people under Jamaah Islamiyah in Indonesia now have a new ‘flag’ operating under ISIS, in this case, ISIS of the Philippines,” said Ridwan Habib, a terrorism analyst at the University of Indonesia.

“Something serious is brewing and the government needs to anticipate what could happen next,” he said. “We‘re worried that this new identity.”

Extremist militant group

Jammah Islamiyah is an extremist militant group in Southeast Asia with links to al-Qaida and has carried out numerous bomb attacks in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region, including the 2002 Bali attacks that killed more than 200 people.

Islamic State (IS) has already shown signs of expanding in the region through local affiliates and sympathizers.

The group has been recruiting in Indonesia, with more than 380 people joining the terror group by January, according to the country’s counterterrorism agency. Most of those recruits have traveled to Syria and Iraq.

Greg Fealy, an associate professor at the Australian National University who studies terrorism in Indonesia, said the IS terror threat in the country has been on the rise since mid-2014.

Islamic State (IS) has reportedly tapped a leader in the Abu Sayyaf group – an extremist militant group in the region known for kidnapping and beheading foreign tourists – as its Southeast Asia chief.

Indonesian authorities also confirmed that IS posed a threat to their country.

The terror group claimed responsibility for a coordinated bomb and gun attack in central Jakarta in January that killed eight people, including the four attackers.

In March, U.S. Treasury authorities added Bahrun Naim, a prominent Indonesian militant, to the global terrorist list, saying he provided financial and operational support for IS in Indonesia and funneled money through Southeast Asia to recruit people to IS battlefields.

Also Read: UN Human Rights Chief Urges Iraqi Government to help Victims of Islamic State (ISIS) Sex Abuse

In the Philippines, Islamic State (IS)  has endorsed Isnilon Hapilon – the country’s most-wanted man who has a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the U.S. for alleged terrorist acts against American citizens – as the leader of a loosely affiliated association of small groups that have sprouted in the past three to four years around the central and southern Philippines.

Hapilon swore allegiance to Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a July 2014 video, according to the U.S. State Department.

Philippines as a new destination

Some analysts say that many extremists in Indonesia who wish to join IS are now heading to the Philippines instead of Syria and Iraq because conditions in the terror group’s former strongholds have degraded due to the ongoing multi front military campaign against the group in the region.

“In terms of costs, distance, and access, the Philippines is more feasible,” Ridwan Habib of the University of Indonesia said. “Therefore, many jihadists from Indonesia chose to go to Marawi instead of going to Syria.”

Habib warned that the situation could get worse if the ongoing conflict in Marawi is not tackled and managed properly.

The analyst claimed that Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian militant in the Philippines who has studied in Islamabad, Pakistan, has been attempting to help establish an IS presence in the Southeast Asia region.

Ahmad was reported to have been killed in the Marawi battle in June, but Khalild Abu Bakar, a Malaysian police chief, told media that he believes Ahmad is still alive.

Gen. Eduardo Ano, chief of staff of the Philippines armed forces, said Ahmad channeled more than $600,000 from the IS group to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the attack in Marawi, according to The Associated Press.

Also Read: Sudanese Children of Islamic State (ISIS) Militants Released in Libya

Returning IS fighters dilemma

Many fighters from Southeast Asia who had traveled to fight with IS in Syria and Iraq are returning to their home countries as the terror group is losing ground in the Middle East.

Indonesia’s government reported last year that between 169 and 300 Indonesians who fought for IS have returned home.

“Though I have said there are 50 (IS affiliates) in Bali, 25 in NTT (East Nusa Tenggara) and 600 in NTB (Nusa Tenggara Barat), their whereabouts are known to us and under control,” Major General Simandjuntak, a military commander in Bali, told reporters last week.

“They are in a sleep or inactive mode,” he added.

Abdul Haris Masyhari, chairman of the committee on defense and foreign relations in Indonesia’s parliament, worried that returning IS fighters could set up cells in their hometowns.

“In reference to Bali, I hope law enforcement would take action and preventive measures to thwart terror plots,” Masyhari said.

Opposition to Islamic State is growing in Indonesia amongst the public.

In May, a survey of 1,350 adults suggested nearly 90 percent of the participants viewed IS as a serious threat to their country. Meanwhile, several surveys conducted in the country indicate an increase in extremist ideology among the youth, who are idolizing radical figures. (VOA)

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Poor Nutritional Knowledge Fuels Malnutrition Among Indonesian Girls

Two in five adolescent girls are thin due to undernutrition

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Poor Nutritional Knowledge Fuels Malnutrition Among Indonesian Girls
Poor Nutritional Knowledge Fuels Malnutrition Among Indonesian Girls, Pixabay

From fears that eating chicken wings makes it hard to find a husband to beliefs that pineapple jeopardizes fertility, a host of food taboos are fueling malnutrition among Indonesian girls, experts said as they launched an adolescent health drive.

Nutritionists said girls ate very little protein, vegetables or fruit, preferring to fill up with rice and processed snacks which were often sweet or fried.

“Indonesian girls are being left behind when it comes to nutrition,” said Kecia Bertermann of Girl Effect, a non-profit that uses mobile technology to empower girls.

“They don’t understand why their health is important, nor how nutrition is connected to doing well at school, at work or for their futures.”

The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF says Indonesia has some of the world’s most troubling nutrition statistics.

Two in five adolescent girls are thin due to undernutrition, which is a particular concern given many girls begin childbearing in their teens.

Two in every five girl is malnutritioned
Two in every five girl is malnutritioned, Pixabay

Experts said the food taboos were part of a wider system of cultural and social habits leading to poor adolescent nutrition, which could impact girls’ education and opportunities.

One myth is that cucumber stimulates excessive vaginal discharge, another that eating pineapple can prevent girls from conceiving later on or cause miscarriages in pregnant women.

Others believe spicy food can cause appendicitis and make breast milk spicy, oily foods can cause sore throats and peanuts can cause acne, while chicken feet – like chicken wings – can cause girls to struggle finding a husband.

Research by Girl Effect found urban girls ate little or no breakfast, snacked on “empty foods” throughout the day and thought feeling full was the same as being well nourished.

Snacks tended to be carbohydrate-heavy, leaving girls short of protein, vitamins and minerals.

Girl Effect is teaming up with global organization Nutrition International to improve girls’ eating habits via its Springster mobile app, a platform providing interactive content for girls on health and social issues.

If successful, the initiative could be expanded to the Philippines and Nigeria.

nougat
nougat, Pixabay

Experts said Indonesia was a country with “a double burden of malnutrition” with some people stunted and others overweight but also lacking micronutrients.

Marion Roche, a specialist in adolescent health at Nutrition International, said the poor nutritional knowledge among girls was particularly striking given infant nutrition had improved in Indonesia.

Also read: Jacqueline turns nutritionist for her MMA team

“Adolescent girls don’t know what healthy looks like, as health is understood as the absence of illness,” she said. “We need to give them the knowledge to make healthy choices.” (VOA)