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Malaysia faces challenges in curbing incoming ISIS fund transfer

Katibah Nusantara is an ISIS wing in SouthEast Asia: followers in Malay-speaking countries – mainly Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia

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Members of the Malaysian police and army prepare for a joint training exercise at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 22, 2016. (BenarNews)

Malaysian authorities face a challenging task in foiling cash transfers the Islamic State (IS) may be sending to its Southeast Asia arm, Katibah Nusantara.

Authorities are having a difficult time tracing these funds because of the underground black market money network in Southeast Asia and the emergence of the elusive hawala system.

“It would be a straight-forward case if the fund is being channeled via the conventional banks as we could track it through the Suspicious Transaction Record (STR) but it would be harder if it is being distributed through other systems out there,” Malaysian police counter terrorism official Ayub Khan Mydin Pitchay told BenarNews.

“They can even use the simplest method by using courier services and even the more complicated elusive ancient hawala money transfer system,” he added.

The hawala system, often used in the Middle East and North Africa, is a means of transferring money via a large network of brokers without money actually moving.

Local English daily The Sun recently reported that IS had allocated more than U.S. $73,000 (RM 292,000) for Katibah Nusantara to finance bombings and attacks at strategic locations in Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia.

Leaders of Katibah Nusantara are pushing their followers to stage attacks similar to the Jan. 14 attack in Jakarta that left eight dead, The Sun reported, citing sources in the intelligence arm of the Royal Malaysia Police, who said they got the information from their international counterparts.

Katibah Nusantara includes IS followers in Malay-speaking countries – mainly Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Approximately 1,000 Southeast Asians had travelled to Syria and Iraq to join militant groups there by the end of 2015, according to the U.S. State Department.

No specific country

Ayub said intelligence received on the transfers were vague. He added that police have not confirmed whether the funding had made its way to any group in Malaysia.

“We were only informed that the fund is purportedly being channelled to Southeast Asia region, but it is not specific to which country,” he said.

Meanwhile, University Science of Malaysia (USM) Criminologist associate professor P. Sundramoorthy said tracking fund movements and distribution is complicated.

“I think it will not be an easy task for the authorities to identify and track down the funds distribution as they happened, particularly given the fact that they are not distributed in one, big lump sum.

“In some cases, these funds are being transferred in smaller amounts and even some are being channelled using conventional financial institutions,” he told BenarNews on Monday.

Monitoring needed

Malaysia has more than 400 currency or money changing premises, and many of them offer money transfer services.

The Malaysian Association of Money Services Business (MAMBS), which represents all licensees under the Money Services Business Act 2011, insists its members ask customers to produce identification documents for transactions greater than RM 3,000 (U.S. $769), according to a statement.

“This is for the purpose of complying with requirements pursuant to the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001, which requires licensees to identify and verify the customers performing money services transactions,” reads the undated press statement on its website.

Sundramoorthy said it is paramount that strict monitoring is carried out, along with intelligence sharing among law enforcement agencies, to curb the threat posed by terror organizations. (BenarNews)

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President of Egypt Calls for Collective Action Against Countries Supporting Terrorism

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The president of Egypt Urges world leaders to take decisive action against states supporting terrorism. Pixabay

Egypt’s president Wednesday called for “decisive” and “collective” action against countries supporting “terrorism” in an apparent reference to Turkey and Qatar, who back the Muslim Brotherhood group, which is outlawed in Egypt.

The three countries also support opposing factions in the war-torn Libya.

Addressing a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also said achieving sustainable development in Africa is needed, along with efforts to fight militant groups in Egypt and the Sahel region that stretches across Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

“There should be a decisive response to countries supporting terrorism and a collective response against terrorism, because the terrorist groups will only have the ability to fight if they are provided with financial, military and moral support,” he said.

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The President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly. VOA

The gathering in Aswan is attended by the leaders of Niger, Chad, Nigeria and Senegal along with officials from the U.S., Britain and Canada.

The Sahel region is home to al-Qaida and Islamic State group-linked militants. El-Sissi said Egypt could help train forces and provide weapons to countries in the region to fight extremists.

Egypt has for years been battling an Islamic State-led insurgency that intensified after the military overthrew an elected but divisive Muslim Brotherhood President Muhammad Morsi in 2013 amid mass protests against his brief rule.

Militant-related violence in Egypt has been centered on the Sinai Peninsula, as well as in the country’s vast Western Desert, which has witnessed deadly attacks blamed on militants infiltrating from neighboring Libya.

Since Morsi’s ouster, tensions have grown between Egypt and Turkey and Egypt and Qatar. The political party of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which Cairo designated as at terrorist group in 2013.

Upcoming conference

El-Sissi also said a “comprehensive, political solution would be achieved in the coming months” for the conflict in Libya, which descended into chaos after the 2011 civil war that ousted and killed long-time dictator Moammar Gadhafi. He did not elaborate.

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This photo provided by the office of Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, dignitaries including Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, center, gather, for a photo during a two-day forum on peace in Africa in the southern city of Aswan, Egypt. VOA

He said that would put an end to a “terrorist hotbed that pushes militants and weapons to (Libya’s) neighboring countries including Egypt.”

El-Sissi apparently was referring to an international summit in Berlin that aims to reach an agreement on actions needed to end the conflict. The conference had been scheduled for October, but it has apparently been postponed.

After the 2011 civil war, Libya split in two, with a weak U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli overseeing the country’s west and a rival government in the east aligned with the Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Hifter.

Maritime border agreement 

El-Sissi’s comments came amid heightened tensions with Turkey after a controversial maritime border agreement it signed last month with Libya’s Tripoli-based government.

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Greece, Egypt and Cyprus, which lie between the two geographically, have denounced the deal as being contrary to international law, and Greece expelled the Libyan ambassador last week over the issue.

Hifter has for months been fighting an array of militias allied with the Tripoli authorities to wrestle control of the capital.  He is backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, as well as France and Russia, while the Tripoli-based government receives aid from Turkey, Qatar and Italy. (VOA)