The rise of violence from terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria poses a threat to global security, Asean warned, as two of its member states highlighted the potential for Islamic State activities in the region.
“Asean denounces all acts of destruction, violence and terror in all its forms,” the Association of South East Asian Nations said in a statement published on its website Sept 27. Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein raised the possibility of an Islamic State strike in the region, The Star reported yesterday, while the Philippine Daily Inquirer said Philippine authorities have been alerted to the potential entry of operatives from the terrorist group.
The U.S. expanded its bombing of militants from Islamic State, an al-Qaeda breakaway group from Iraq to Syria, last week as President Barack Obama said force is the only way address the threat. The airstrikes, backed by an Arab-U.S. coalition, seek to rein in militants who have rampaged through Syria and parts of Iraq. As many as 200 Indonesians and at least 30 Malaysians have traveled to Syria to fight with Islamic State and other rebel groups, according to New York-based Soufan Group.
“Governments should criminalize by law its nationals advocating, supporting or participating in fighting overseas,” Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said in a phone interview yesterday. “Governments and Muslim community organizations must maintain vigilance against attempts by misguided leaders to spread propaganda to recruit Muslim youth to extremism and violence.”
Asean supports United Nations Security Council resolutions, which call on the international community to suppress the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and financing of such groups, the bloc said in the statement. The grouping comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei.
Should there be an Islamic State strike in Malaysia, it will be along the Sulu Straits, between Sabah on the island of Borneo and the southern Philippines, The Star reported, citing Hishammuddin. A meeting will be held with Prime Minister Najib Razak to discuss allocating funds to safeguard the country’s waters, Hishammuddin told the Kuala Lumpur-based newspaper.
The Philippine government has been alerted to the possible entry of Islamic State operatives into the country, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported yesterday, citing President Benigno Aquino’s spokesman Abigail Valte.
Indonesians and Malaysians that traveled to Syria to fight with Islamic State and other groups may have entered through countries such as Egypt and Turkey, according to an August report by Soufan Group, which provides strategic analysis to governments. There’s a risk they will return to carry out attacks in their home countries, according to the report.
“Asean renews its commitment to work with the international community to fight against extremism, radicalism and terrorism and address its root causes,” the group said in its statement, without naming Islamic State. The groups in Iraq and Syria “not only pose a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria, but also to all countries in Middle East, and, if left unchecked, to the rest of the world.”