Posts Tagged ‘Indonesian’

Malaysian arrests ‘IS-linked militants planning attacks’

January 22, 2018

AFP

© AFP/File | The flag of the Islamic State group: two people with suspected IS links have been detained in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysian police have arrested two suspected militants with links to the Islamic State (IS) group, who were allegedly planning attacks on entertainment outlets and national police headquarters, officials said Monday.One of the suspects, an Indonesian construction worker, had previously wandered around Kuala Lumpur with a knife in an unsuccessful attempt to attack Buddhist monks in revenge for atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, police said.

Hundreds of suspected extremists have been arrested in Muslim-majority Malaysia in recent times, as fears grow that IS is encouraging would-be militants to launch attacks in a country that has never before suffered a major assault.

 Malaysia’s Counter Terrorism Division officers arresting a private religious school teacher, who was planning to launch attacks on entertainment outlets in the Klang Valley, in Petaling Jaya on Dec 23, 2017.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

The latest arrests took place in separate police operations in January and December, with a Malaysian teacher from a religious school detained as well as the construction worker.

The men were “suspected of being involved with the Daesh (IS) terrorist group”, said national police chief Mohamad Fuzi Harun in a statement.

The 23-year-old Indonesian was detained in the capital last week and had allegedly been planning to attack police headquarters and other police stations to steal weapons that could be used in attacks.

In November he had scouted an area of downtown Kuala Lumpur with a knife, allegedly planning to target Buddhist monks, but he did not succeed, police said.

There has been an outpouring of sympathy towards the Rohingya in Malaysia since hundreds of thousands fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, their mainly Buddhist homeland, in the wake of a military-led campaign in Rakhine state.

The suspect, who was not named, had been in contact with a senior IS leader and had raised a flag of the jihadist group at the construction site where he worked, police said.

The Malaysian teacher, 25, was detained outside Kuala Lumpur and had been planning attacks on entertainment outlets around the capital, police said, without giving further details.

He previously served an 18-month jail term under tough internal security laws.

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Philippine Army Says Taking Fire From Women, Children in Marawi Battle — Duterte doesn’t see end of Marawi crisis much before December

September 4, 2017

MARAWI CITY, Philippines — Philippine troops fighting Islamic State-linked rebels in a southern city have encountered armed resistance from women and children, the military said on Monday, as troops make a final push to end a conflict that has raged for more than 100 days.

Ground forces were braced for higher casualties amid fierce fighting in Marawi City on the island of Mindanao, where the field of battle has shrank to a small area in a commercial heart infested with snipers, and littered with booby traps.

“We are now in the final phase of our operations and we are expecting more intense and bloody fighting. We may suffer heavier casualties as the enemy becomes more desperate,” Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez, who heads the military in Western Mindanao, told reporters.

He said the number of fighters was diminishing and a small number of women and children, most likely family members of the rebels, were now engaged in combat.

“Our troops in the field are seeing women and children shooting at our troops so that’s why it seems they are not running out of fighters.”

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 The Philippine Amy and the Philippine Marines join forces as it stage assault in a terrorists position in Mapandi, Marawi City July 12 as the exchange of gunfire fire reign the area.(Photo by : Richel V. Umel, Inquirer Mindanao)

More than 800 people have been killed in the battle, most of them insurgents, since May 23 when the militants occupied large parts of the predominantly Muslim town.

The battle is the biggest security challenge in years for the mostly Catholic Philippines, even though it has a long history of Muslim separatist rebellion in Mindanao, an island of 22 million people that has been placed under martial law until the end of the year.

The protracted clashes and resilience of the rebels has fanned fears that Philippine groups loyal to Islamic State, and with ties to Indonesian and Malaysian militants, have formed an alliance that is well-organized, funded and armed, and serious about carving out its own territory in Mindanao.

Citing information provided by four hostages who had escaped from the rebels, Galvez said there were some 56 Christian hostages – most of them women – and about 80 male residents may have been forced to take up arms and fight the military.

The fighting was concentrated in an area around a mosque about a quarter of a square kilometer. He said soldiers were taking control of an average 35 buildings a day and at that rate, it could be three weeks before the city was under government control.

Image may contain: one or more people and outdoor

Philippine Marines, backed by a V300 infantry fighting vehicle, cross Mapandi Bridge, a key area in the fighting in Marawi City that has now reached a hundred days. Froilan Gallardo, ABS-CBN News

AIR STRIKES

Fighting in Marawi was intense on Monday, with heavy gunfire and explosions ringing out across the picturesque, lakeside town, the heart of which has been devastated by near-daily government air strikes.

Helicopters circled above to provide air cover for ground troops as fighting raged, with bursts of smoke rising above the skyline as bombs landed on rebel positions.

Galvez said intelligence showed the rebels’ military commander, Abdullah Maute, may have been killed last month in an air strike.

Postings on Facebook and chatter over the past two days on Telegram, a messaging application used by Islamic State and its sympathizers, had carried tributes to Abdullah, referring to him by one of his pseudonyms, he said.

“There is no 100 percent confirmation until we see his cadaver but this is enough to presume he died already,” he said.

The military has contradictory statements about the status of the rebel leaders over the past few months.

Abdullah Maute and brother Omarkhayam are the Middle East-educated leaders of a militant clan known as the Maute group that has gained notoriety in the past two years due to its ability to engage the army for long periods.

Under the name Dawla Islamiya, the Maute group has formed an alliance with Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of a pro-Islamic State faction of another group, Abu Sayyaf.

Galvez said the army’s intelligence indicated both Omarkhayam and Hapilon, Islamic State’s anointed “emir” in Southeast Asia, were still in the Marawi battle.

For a graphic on how main Islamic militant groups in Mindanao evolved, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS/010041FJ346/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS-HISTORY.jpg

For a graphic on Islamic militant strongholds in Mindanao, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS/010041BW2VW/PHILIPPINEs-MILITANTS3.jpg

For a graphic on deaths in Marawi, click: http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/PHILIPPINES-MILITANTS/010050L81DG/marawi-fatality.jpg

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Duterte sees end of Marawi crisis by December

 / 07:29 AM September 04, 2017

marawi

The Philippine Amy and the Philippine Marines join forces as it stage assault in a terrorists position in Mapandi, Marawi City July 12 as the exchange of gunfire fire reign the area.(Photo by : Richel V. Umel, Inquirer Mindanao)

DAVAO CITY — The Marawi crisis should end soon so that the government can deal with other problems that could erupt into bigger troubles, President Rodrigo Duterte said on Saturday.

Mr. Duterte was referring to the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, whose members are becoming restive over the delay in the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in Congress.

“I have until the end of the year to contain this thing,” Mr. Duterte told reporters here late on Saturday after attending the birthday celebration of Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles.

“You know, the Marawi [crisis] is ending. What’s prolonging it is our effort to save the lives of everybody, including the terrorists if possible. I objected, I ruled out the bombing of mosques because destroying that could mean the destruction of what’s in the soul of Muslims everywhere,” he said.

Mr. Duterte said targeting the mosques could also put the lives of the hostages at risk.

The military said last week the Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists holed up in Marawi were still holding about 50 hostages, but on Saturday, the President said he was not sure.

He said the terrorists could kill the hostages at government troops’ first attempt to storm buildings held by the gunmen.

‘We’ll get Hapilon’

Mr. Duterte said he was being cautious “because at the end of the day, I take the blame for everything.”

On Sunday, Malacañang promised that the government would capture Isnilon Hapilon, the leader of the Islamic State-inspired terrorists holed up in Marawi.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said the government believed Hapilon, leader of an Abu Sayyaf faction that joined the Maute terror group in attacking Marawi, was still alive and in the city, surrounded by government troops.

Raw information

“We treat numerous reports saying that Hapilon has left Marawi and has been seen openly in Basilan as raw information requiring further validation by the military and various security agencies of [the] government,” he said in a statement.

“Granting Isnilon Hapilon’s whereabouts in Basilan is true, it would mean that he chose to abandon his men as the battle of Marawi nears its final stretch,” Abella said.

But recent military assessment indicated that Hapilon, who has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State jihadist group in the Middle East, is “still very much in Marawi,” he added. —With a report from Philip C. Tubeza in Manila

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/927722/duterte-sees-end-of-marawi-crisis-by-december#ixzz4rhAylnf9
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Philippines air strike on rebel positions kills 10 government troops

June 1, 2017

Reuters

A Philippine Marine fires his weapon towards the stronghold of Maute group in Marawi City, southern Philippines. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
By Neil Jerome Morales | MANILA

An air strike during Philippine military operations to drive Islamist rebels out of a southern city has killed 10 government troops, the defense minister said on Thursday, in a major blow to efforts to defeat fighters linked to the Islamic State group.

Seven other soldiers were wounded on Wednesday when two air force SF-260 close air support planes dropped bombs on a target in the heart of Marawi City, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told a news conference. The first plane hit the target but the second missed.

Government troops cross a bridge that Muslim militants tried to blow it up, to secure a village in the outskirts of Marawi city Tuesday, May 30, 2017, in southern Philippines. Philippine forces pressed their offensive to drive out militants linked to the Islamic State group after days of fighting left corpses in the streets and hundreds of civilians begging for rescue from a besieged southern city of Marawi. AP/Bullit Marquez

“It’s very sad to be hitting our own troops,” Lorenzana said. “There must be a mistake somewhere, either someone directing from the ground, or the pilot.”

The armed forces have used a combination of ground troops and rocket strikes from helicopters since the weekend to try flush rebels of the Maute group out of buildings. Wednesday was the first day the SF-260 planes were deployed.

The pro-Islamic State Maute group has proven to be a fierce enemy, clinging on to the heart of Marawi City through days of air strikes the military has said are “surgical” and on known rebel targets.

The Maute’s ability to fight off a military with greater numbers and superior firepower for so long will add to fears that it could win the recognition of the Islamic State leadership in the Middle East and become its Southeast Asian affiliate.

The deaths of the soldiers takes the number of security forces killed to 38, with 19 civilians and 120 rebel fighters killed in the battles in Marawi over the past nine days.

Lorenzana said militants who were Saudi, Malaysian, Indonesian, Yemeni and Chechen were among eight foreigners killed fighting with the Maute rebels.

In an earlier text message to reporters, he said of the “friendly fire” incident: “Sometimes that happens. Sometimes the fog of war … The coordination was not properly done so we hit our own people.”

The unrest started on May 23, when Maute rebels ran amok, torching and seizing buildings, stealing weapons and police vehicles, taking hostages, and freeing prisoners to join their fight.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is concerned radical ideology is spreading in the southern Philippines and it could become a haven for militants from Southeast Asia and beyond.

Lorenzana said the military might suspend air strikes, describing the rebels as a small force that “cannot hold that long”.

The military was carrying out air strikes on locations where it believes Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called “emir” of Islamic State, and point man for its operations in the Philippines, is hiding.

For graphic on battle of Marawi, click: tmsnrt.rs/2qBkSPk

For graphic on Islamic State-linked groups in Philippine south, click: tmsnrt.rs/2rYIHTj

(Additional reporting by Manuel Mogato and Karen Lema; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Paul Tait)

Philippines puts city on lockdown over fears of militant infiltration

May 29, 2017

Reuters

A Philippine Air Force attack helicopter fires a rocket as they continue to assault the Maute group in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
By Tom Allard | MARAWI, PHILIPPINES

The Philippine city of Iligan was overflowing with evacuees and on lockdown on Monday over fears Islamist militants had sneaked out of nearby Marawi, where troops were battling to drive out gunmen holed up in buildings for a seventh day.

The fighting in the city of Marawi with pro-Islamic State militants of the Maute group is the biggest security challenges of Rodrigo Duterte’s 11-month presidency, with gunmen still holding parts of the city and fending off helicopter air strikes and ground attacks by commandos.

Members of Philippine Marines cross a road as they reinforce government soldiers fighting the Maute group in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Most of Marawi’s 200,000 people have left, many pouring into Iligan, some 38 km (24 miles) away, where authorities said they were stretched to the limit and worried that Maute fighters were blending in with the displaced and could launch attacks.

“We don’t want what’s happening in Marawi to spill over in Iligan,” said Colonel Alex Aduca, chief of the Fourth Mechanized Infantry Battalion.

“We want to ensure the safety of people here, to prevent elements from entering and conducting terroristic activities,” he told DZMM radio.

He said some rebels had been caught trying to get into Iligan, but did not give details.

Sixty-one militants, 20 members of the security forces and 19 civilians have been killed since Tuesday, when Maute rebels went on the rampage in Marawi after a botched attempt by the military to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, who the government believes is a point man for Islamic State in the Philippines.

The ability of the Maute group to fight off the military for so long will add to fears that Islamic State’s radical ideology is spreading in the southern Philippines, and it could become a haven for militants from Indonesia, Malaysia and beyond.

The military believes the Maute carried out their assault before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to capture the attention of Islamic State and earn its recognition as a Southeast Asian affiliate.

Members of Philippine Marines are pictured aboard a vehicle as more soldiers reinforce to fight the Maute group in Marawi City in southern Philippines May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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Witnesses in Marawi said they had seen militants flying the Islamic State flag and wearing black outfits and headbands typical of the group.

CIVILIANS STRANDED

Troops on the streets of Marawi fired at Maute snipers as smoke poured out of several buildings.

Trucks loaded with marines arrived to reinforce soldiers guarding deserted streets as helicopters circulated above the lakeside city surrounded by jungle-clad hills.

The military said the Maute group was still present in nine of the city’s 96 Barangays, or communities. Thousands of people were stranded, worried they could be intercepted by militants that have set up checkpoints on routes out of the city.

Civilians stuck in Marawi were without food and were as anxious about rocket strikes as much as they were the militants, said Zia Alonto Adiong, a politician coordinating efforts to evacuate civilians.

He said there were still dead bodies in Marawi and civilians wanted the military to stop air strikes.

“The anticipation of death is worse than death itself,” he said in a television interview. “We appeal to our military forces to do a different approach.”

Bodies of what appeared to be executed civilians were found in a ravine outside a Marawi on Sunday as the crisis took a more sinister turn. Most of the eight men were shot in the head and some had bound hands.

The army said it was possible more “atrocities” had taken place.

Duterte imposed martial law last week on Mindanao, an island of 22 million people where both Marawi and Iligan are located, to quell the unrest and wipe out militancy.

Some rights activists and lawmakers say martial law across the island is an overreaction that will increase the risk of human rights abuses by security forces.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said the imposition of martial law was necessary, and constitutional.

“It started flying the flag of the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria in several areas, thereby openly attempting to remove from the allegiance to the Philippine government this part of Mindanao,” Abella told reporters.

“This constitutes the crime of rebellion.”

For graphic on Islamic State-linked groups in Philippine south, click: tmsnrt.rs/2rYIHTj

(Additional reporting by Erik de Castro in MARAWI and Neil Jerome Morales, Karen Lema and Manuel Mogato in MANILA; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Friday, May 26, 2017

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Thursday, May 25, 2017 and Earlier
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Lorenzana said the confrontation opened Tuesday afternoon, when government forces attempted to arrest a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, an extremist organization with ties to the Islamic State. They had learned Isnilon Hapilon was in the area, but according to Lorenzana, the military had not expected him to be backed up by “more or less 100 fighters” — many of whom were members of another ISIS-linked organization, the Maute Group.

More than 100 gunmen responded to the raid by burning buildings and conducting other diversionary tactics, officials said, adding that thousands of residents have fled Marawi.

 (with links to related reports)

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ISIS in Southeast Asia: Philippines battles growing threat — Over 100 killed in fighting or by Execution

May 29, 2017

Updated 0601 GMT (1401 HKT) May 29, 2017

(CNN)The black flag of ISIS has been raised in the Philippines.

At least 103 people have died in the city of Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao in less than a week as fighters affiliated with the so-called Islamic State engaged in violent clashes with government forces, and martial law was declared over the entire island.
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Local resident Chico Usman said the militants had entered the predominantly Muslim city of some 200,000 suddenly, on the afternoon of May 24, wearing masks and carrying assault rifles. “Everybody was shocked and ran into their houses,” he said, adding they could hear gunfire and fighting until the following morning.
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Black ISIS flags emblazoned in white with the words “There is no god but God” were flying from “every corner in the city,” said Usman, who spoke to CNN from near Saguiaran, a town outside Marawi, where thousands of fleeing residents had taken temporary shelter.
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Photos showed long queues of cars piled with people and belongings, as tanks and armored troop vehicles headed in the opposite direction.
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An ISIS fighter erects the flag of the so-called Islamic State atop a school near a mosque in Marawi, southern  Philippines on May 24, 2017.

Clashes between government forces and militants had claimed the lives of 19 civilians, 11 military and four policemen, as of Sunday afternoon, according to a spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The AFP confirmed 61 militants had also been killed.

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In a separate incident, eight other people — thought to be fleeing the city — were found dead in a ravine. Witnesses said the victims were asked to recite Muslim prayers, according to CNN Philippines. Those who failed were taken by the armed men. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country but Mindanao has a significant Muslim population.
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The latest violence flared up on May 23, after the military launched an operation targeting Isnilon Hapilon, a Filipino militant leader, who was last year designated ISIS emir for Southeast Asia.
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Surrounded and fearing capture, Hapilon is thought to have issued an emergency call for reinforcements from members of the Maute group, a local Islamist militant organization that’s pledged allegiance to ISIS, who poured into Marawi by the hundreds, setting fire to buildings, taking hostages and entering into running street-battles with government forces as they came.
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While Islamist and criminal groups have been active in the lawless tri-border area between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia for years, such an audacious and aggressive attack on government troops by fighters loyal to ISIS has shocked many observers — and increased fears the group is succeeding in extending its influence into Southeast Asia.
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A Philippine Air Force helicopter gunship fires a rocket at Maute positions in the continuing assault to retake control of some areas of Marawi City, May 27, 2017. AP
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An Asian caliphate?

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“What’s happening in Mindanao is no longer a rebellion of Filipino citizens. It has transmogrified into invasion by foreign terrorists,” said Philippines Solicitor General Jose Calida during a press briefing last week. .
“They want to create Mindanao as part of the caliphate.”
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While ISIS has yet to declare a wilayah — or state — of the caliphate in Southeast Asia as it has done in Libya and Saudi Arabia, many analysts believe it is merely a matter of time.
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The influence of ISIS has spread throughout Southeast Asia in recent years, with more than 60 groups in the region pledging allegiance to self-declared caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, according to Rohan Gunaratna, head of the Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR).
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Last week’s suicide attacks in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, which claimed the lives of three police officers, is a case in point. Though carried out by Indonesian nationals, Jakarta police suspect the attacks are linked to ISIS.
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Philippine marines aboard their vehicles maneuver through a street on their way to an assault on the hide out of Muslim militants near the town center in Marawi, in southern island of Mindanao on May 28, 2017.

While in Malaysia, six suspected militants — including a alleged ISIS arms smuggler — were picked up in special operation by the country’s Counter Terrorism Division last week. Other recent attacks throughout the region, including last year’s grenade blast in a bar near Kuala Lumpur, have also been attributed to the terror network.
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Unified Islamist front

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Ties between the Philippines-based groups, which have led much of violence in recent years, and their counterparts in Indonesia and Malaysia are also growing. In April this year, a Philippines military strike on suspected ISIS-affiliated Maute militants in the Lanao del Sur province of Mindanao, killed 37, including three Indonesians and one Malaysian who were believed to be members of Jemaah Islamiyah — an Indonesia-based terror group.
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Residents of Marawi in the southern Philippines flee the city as government forces and ISIS militants clash.

According to Otso Iho, a senior analyst at Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Center, increased cooperation between groups is a significant step towards “generating a much more unified Islamist front particularly in the southern Philippines.”
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A report by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC), however, noted that while ISIS “has deepened cooperation among extremist groups in Southeast Asia,” law enforcement and counter terrorist efforts remain largely national.
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“Geographical and sovereignty issues, competing territorial claims and regional politicking … seem to be hindering regional cooperation,” warned analysts Jasminder Singh and Muhammad Haziq Bin Jani in a report last year.
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If action is not taken, they said, the region risks becoming a Southeast Asian version of the tribal areas along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
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Risks to which Mindanao is particularly vulnerable.
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The southernmost island in the Philippines, Mindanao has long been plagued by conflict, with the region experiencing Communist insurgencies, nationalist rebellions, and brutal military crackdowns launched from Manila.
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According to the United Nations World Food Program, outbreaks of conflict in 2000 and 2008 “each led to the displacement of nearly a million individuals.”
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This instability, combined with the porous maritime borders between the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia that make it easy for groups to flee any crackdowns, has helped to establish the area an ideal hideout for drug smugglers, pirates, kidnap-for-cash groups, and increasingly, terrorists from across the region.
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ISIS goes east

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In a 2016 video circulated online, armed men — most appearing no older than teenagers — stand holding assault rifles and other weapons, as Arabic music plays in the background. They join their hands and pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared caliph of the Islamic State.
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Later in the video, a Malaysian fighter urges viewers who cannot travel to the Middle East to go instead “to the Philippines.” He then joins two other fighters — identified as Filipino and Indonesian — in beheading three Christian captives.
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Philippine marines take their position as they begin an assault on Muslim militants near the city hall in Marawi, in southern island of Mindanao on May 28, 2017.

Bearing the trademark high production values and gruesome executions of the core ISIS propaganda wing, the video represented the growing importance of Southeast Asia to the group’s leaders in Syria. Recent issues of Rumiyah — a monthly propaganda magazine published by ISIS in multiple languages — have also highlighted actions by Islamic State fighters against the “Filipino Crusader army” in the region.
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According to researchers at ICPVTR in Singapore, ISIS has formed Katibah Al-Muhajir — the Brigade of the Migrant — to organize fighters in Southeast Asia.
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“For approximately 500 Malaysian Ringgit, a prospective foreign jihadist can secure his travel arrangements, from Malaysia to the Philippines, and be given a complimentary weapon,” analysts Singh and Bin Jani wrote in their report last year. This brigade is under the command of Hapilon.
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A skinny, baby-faced 51-year-old, Hapilon is originally from Basilan, an island in the southern part of Mindanao in the Sulu archipelago, according to the FBI.
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The militant leader, who first came to prominence as the commander of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group, has a long rap sheet — including a series of high-profile kidnappings-for-ransom of foreign nationals in the southern Philippines.
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He was endorsed by ISIS as the emir for Southeast Asia in 2016, according to IPAC despite the fact he speaks “neither Arabic nor English, and his religious knowledge is limited.”
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His stature — as confirmed by the Maute group’s coming to his aid, along with a $5 million US government bounty for information that would lead to his capture or conviction — is likely based on his ties to foreign jihadis and other ISIS-linked groups in the region, IPAC said in the report last year.
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Members of Philippine police special forces maneuver as they launch an assault on Muslim militants near the city hall in Marawi on May 28, 2017.

Returnee fighters

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Regional cooperation in combating militants such as Hapilon may become more important than ever before, as experts predict loss of land in Syria and Iraq will see ISIS leadership turn more attention to the southern Philippines.
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Whether because they are sent there by al Baghdadi, or because they are fleeing Syrians and Kurds and other fronts, there are hundreds of local Southeast Asian fighters poised to bring their expertise and ideological commitment to the region.
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According to a report by the Carnegie Council, up to “1,000 Southeast Asians may have traveled to ISIS-controlled territory in the Middle East.” Though such numbers are unconfirmed, multiple regional officials have expressed alarm at the lack of transnational programs and strategies in place to deal with potential returnees.
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Australian Attorney General George Brandis who is a strong proponent of a more joined-up approach — and who recently labeled the security threat of returning fighters as among the “greatest in the region” — has said the matter would be discussed at an upcoming meeting of Asian security ministers later this year.
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“Governments in the region have to constantly be vigilant against the threat of the returnees,” said Singapore-based analyst Bin Jani.
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Along with the hundreds of fighters in the Middle East known to authorities, there are many more who are not being tracked, Bin Jani said, “militants can be very unassuming when they’re not carrying their guns.”
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 (Contains links to several other related articles)

Friday, May 26, 2017

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Thursday, May 25, 2017 and Earlier
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Lorenzana said the confrontation opened Tuesday afternoon, when government forces attempted to arrest a senior leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, an extremist organization with ties to the Islamic State. They had learned Isnilon Hapilon was in the area, but according to Lorenzana, the military had not expected him to be backed up by “more or less 100 fighters” — many of whom were members of another ISIS-linked organization, the Maute Group.

More than 100 gunmen responded to the raid by burning buildings and conducting other diversionary tactics, officials said, adding that thousands of residents have fled Marawi.

 (with links to related reports)

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Kim Jong-nam death: Network releases purported CCTV footage of assassination

February 20, 2017
 

Leaked CCTV footage allegedly shows Kim Jong-nam being assassinated

Warning: Graphic content.

See It BIGGER:

 

https://www.liveleak.com/ll_embed?f=17766b10e128

Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the video, and police officials were not immediately available for comment.

Kim Jong-nam killing: CCTV footage appears to show attack on North Korean

CCTV footage purportedly showing the deadly assault in Malaysia on the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by a woman, who is believed to have wiped a fast-acting poison on his face, has been released by Japanese broadcaster Fuji TV.

Kim Jong-nam died last Monday a short time after the attack in the departure hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where he had been preparing to take a flight to Macau.

Who killed Kim Jong-nam?

Malaysian police have detained four suspects — a Vietnamese woman, an Indonesian woman, a Malaysian man, and North Korean man — and are on the hunt for four other North Koreans who fled the country on the day of the attack.

At least three of the wanted North Koreans caught an Emirates flight to Dubai from Jakarta late on the same day, an Indonesian immigration office official said.

It is reported they then flew to Pyongyang, although Malaysian police have not confirmed this.

The immigration spokesman revealed the three suspects Ri Jae Nam, Hong Song Hac and Ri Ji Hyon flew on Emirates flight 359 from Soekarno Hatta international airport to Dubai on February 13.

A fourth North Korean man also wanted by Malaysian police was recorded as departing Jakarta’s international airport on January 19.

The grainy closed circuit television footage, which has been released on several websites, showed from two different angles a woman wearing a white top grab a man’s face from behind with both hands and walk away.

A second woman was also seen walking swiftly away in another direction after the assault, though it was unclear if she had participated in the attack.

The portly, balding middle-aged man was seen stumbling and wiping his face after the assault, and later clips showed him seeking help from people while gesturing to his face and then being escorted to a clinic.

More footage showed him inside the clinic seeking medical assistance.

Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos, and police officials were not immediately available for comment.

In a press conference on Sunday, police said the victim complained to the airport customer service personnel that two women had “wiped his face with a liquid”.

Malaysia recalls ambassador over autopsy spat

The diplomatic rift between Malaysia and North Korea is deepening, with North Korea saying it cannot trust the investigation by Malaysian police and demanding a joint probe.

The Malaysians went ahead with the autopsy despite North Korea’s opposition, saying they were simply following protocol.

Who’s who in North Korea

In a five-page statement read to the press, North Korean ambassador Kang Chol said the country also questioned the identity of the dead man, saying he was only known to them as Kim Chol from his passport.

“It has been seven days since the incident but there is no clear evidence on the cause of death and at the moment we cannot trust the investigation by the Malaysian police,” the ambassador said in Kuala Lumpur.

“It only increases the doubt that there could be someone else’s hand behind the investigation,” he said.

“All the happenings clearly show that this incident is politicised by Malaysia in collusion with [South Korea].”

The ambassador then demanded a joint investigation into the death of its citizen and said Malaysia should be held responsible for the “many rumours” which have defamed North Korea’s image.

North Korea has also demanded to speak to the two women who have been arrested.

On Monday, the Malaysian foreign ministry said in a statement it would recall its ambassador to Pyongyang over the comments.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said the country had no reason “to paint North Korea in a bad light” and would be objective in its inquiry.

Malaysia’s health minister, Subramaniam Sathasivam, said the autopsy results could be released as early as Wednesday.

Malaysian authorities have given Kim Jong-nam’s next of kin two weeks to come forward to help in the investigation.

South Korean and US officials believe Kim Jong-nam was killed by agents from the reclusive North.

South Korean Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn told a meeting of South Korea’s National Security Council on Monday that it was nearly certain that North Korea was behind the killing.

Kim Jong-nam, 46, who had been living in the Chinese territory of Macau under Beijing’s protection, had spoken out publicly against his family’s dynastic control of the isolated, nuclear-armed nation.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-20/cctv-footage-of-kim-jong-nam-assassination-released/8286458

Timeline of suspected NK killings

  • 1968: Commandos, dressed as SK military, attempt to assassinate President Park Chung-hee. Stopped 800 metres from the Blue House, 29 of 31 would-be assassins were killed.
  • 1974: Suspected NK agent shoots at Park during Independence Day speech, missing and instead killing his wife.
  • 1983: Bomb explodes at Myanmar memorial during SK President Chun Doo-hwan’s visit. SK foreign minister and 20 others killed. One bomber confesses to being NK military.
  • 1987: Two suspected NK agents plant bomb on SK plane from Baghdad to Seoul. Bomb explodes after pair disembarks in Abu Dhabi — 115 people, mostly from SK, die.
  • 1997: NK defector Lee Han-young, Kim Jong-nam’s cousin, is shot and killed in SK by two people who were never caught. Suspected to be NK agents.
  • 2010: SK authorities arrest two NK operatives the South say were on a mission to assassinate Hwang Jang-yop, a defector and former NK Workers’ Party secretary.
  • 2011: A NK agent was jailed in the South for attempting to assassinate Park Sang-hak, a NK defector, with a poison-tipped needle.

Source: Reuters

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Related:
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The Latest: Malaysia PM Defends Probe Into N. Korean’s Death, Recalls Envoy from North Korea — North Korean “terrorism getting bolder”

February 20, 2017

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — The Latest on the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother, Kim Jong Nam (all times local):

5 p.m.:

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak is defending his country’s investigation into the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s half brother in the face of criticism by Pyongyang’s ambassador.

Najib told reporters Monday that he has “absolute confidence” that police and doctors have been “very objective” in their work.

Earlier Monday, North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol alleged that Malaysia’s investigation was politically motivated. Najib said Malaysia had no reason to “paint the North Koreans in a bad light” but added, “We expect them to understand that we apply the rule of law in Malaysia.”

Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half brother of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, died last week after apparently being poisoned in a Kuala Lumpur airport.

*********************************

BBC News

Kim Jong-nam killing: Malaysia recalls envoy from North Korea

People watch a television showing news reports of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, at a railway station in Seoul o

The murder of Kim Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur last week has sparked a diplomatic row. AFP photo

Malaysia has stepped up diplomatic measures against North Korea in an escalating row over the killing of Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim Jong-nam died in mysterious circumstances last week at an airport in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Police believe he was poisoned.

Malaysia has recalled its ambassador from the North Korean capital Pyongyang and has summoned the North Korean ambassador “to seek an explanation”.

Malaysian police say they are now looking for four North Koreans.

North Korea’s ambassador to Kuala Lumpur, Kang Chol, told reporters that he did not trust the Malaysian inquiry.

“It has been seven days since the incident but there is no clear evidence on the cause of the death and at the moment we cannot trust the investigation by the Malaysian police even though its results [have yet to be] obtained.

“It only increases the doubt that there is someone else’s hand behind the investigation.”

North Korean Ambassador to Malaysia, Kang Chol, waves paper as he speaks outside the embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (February 20, 2017)

North Korea’s ambassador, Kang Chol, said he did not trust the Malaysian probe. Reuters

He said that the incident had been “politicised” and referred to the victim as Kim Chol – the alias used by the dead man.

Meanwhile a video which apparently shows CCTV footage of the attack on Kim Jong-nam has surfaced and aired on Japanese television.

Despite widespread speculation that North Korea was behind the killing, there has been no definitive evidence and Pyongyang has not issued an official statement yet.

South Korea has accused the North of orchestrating the incident, saying on Monday it was evidence of North Korean “terrorism getting bolder”.

What has led to the diplomatic spat?

Malaysia was one of very few countries to maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea, but this killing has strained ties.

Malaysia has refused to accede to North Korean demands to release Kim’s body into their custody without an autopsy.

In comments on Friday, Mr Kang, the North Korean ambassador, said Malaysia was colluding with “hostile forces”. That provoked an angry response from the Malaysian foreign ministry.

It said his accusation was “baseless”, adding that it was their responsibility to conduct an investigation as Kim had died on Malaysian soil.

A North Korean man (second right) identified by the Malaysian police as Ri Jon-chol is taken to a police station in Sepang, Malaysia, February 18, 2017.

One North Korean man has already been arrested in connection with the case. Reuters

What’s happening to Kim’s body?

Malaysian authorities are now waiting for the results of its post mortem, which may come as early as Wednesday, the health minister said.

Kang Chol said his country would reject the result as it was performed without the presence of its representatives.

Malaysia also says it needs to conduct DNA testing first.

Police are now seeking samples from family members. Kim is believed to have family living in Beijing and Macau.

Malaysian police have said that if there is no claim by next of kin and once they exhaust all avenues for DNA collection, they will hand the body over to the North Korean embassy.

Who has been arrested so far?

Kim is believed to have been attacked in the Kuala Lumpur airport departure hall on Monday by two women, using some form of chemical.

Fuji TV has aired grainy CCTV footage showing a man resembling Kim Jong-nam approached by a woman at the airport.

Another woman then quickly lunges from behind and wipes his face with a cloth. She is seen wearing a white top emblazoned with the letters “LOL”.

Grainy image shows a woman with brown hair wearing a T-shirt with the letters
This CCTV image has been broadcast by South Korean and Malaysian media. REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

The man is then seen seeking assistance from airport staff while gesturing at his face, and is escorted to a room.

Two women, one Indonesian and one Vietnamese, were among the first to be arrested. The Indonesian, named as Siti Aisyah, is said to have told Malaysian police she had been paid to perform what she thought was a prank.

Police have also detained one North Korean suspect, Ri Jong-chol, and said they are looking for four more men, who may have already left the country.

The men have been named as Ri Ji Hyon, 33; Hong Song Hac, 34; O Jong Gil, 55, and Ri Jae Nam, 57.

Handout pictures released by the Royal Malaysian Police in Kuala Lumpur on February 19, 2017 showing CCTV images and passport style photos of suspects Hong Song Hac, Ri Ji Hyon.

Hong Song Hac, 34, and Ri Ji Hyon, 33, are wanted by Malaysian police. AFP

Who was Kim Jong-nam?

Kim was the first-born son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, who died in 2011.

He was largely estranged from his family, after being passed over for the North Korean leadership in favour of his youngest half-brother.

He went into exile in the early 2000s, spending most of his time in Macau, mainland China and Singapore.

Deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (left) with his first-born son Kim Jong-nam (right) in a 1981 family photo
Deceased North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (left) with his first-born son Kim Jong-nam (right) in a 1981 family photo. Getty Images

Kim had spoken out in the past against his family’s dynastic control of North Korea. In a 2012 book he was quoted as saying he believed his younger half-brother lacked leadership qualities.

But he had also said he was not interested in assuming the leadership himself.

North Korean family tree showing Kim Jong Nam as the son of Kim Jong-il and Sung-Hae-rim

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39024570

Deadly earthquake strikes Indonesia’s Aceh province

December 7, 2016

AFP

© Chaideer Mahyuddin / AFP | Indonesian rescue workers search through the rubble of a collapsed building following an earthquake in Pidie, Aceh province on December 7, 2016.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2016-12-07

At least 25 people died and hundreds were injured after a strong earthquake struck off Aceh province on Indonesia’s Sumatra island on Wednesday, local officials said.

The shallow 6.5-magnitude quake struck Pidie Jaya district at dawn, as some in the predominantly Muslim region prepared for morning prayers.

Mosques and shops were flattened in the small town of Meureudu, where the force of the quake sent people fleeing from their homes. No tsunami alert was issued.

The head of the local disaster agency, Puteh Manaf, said the sole hospital in the district had been overwhelmed by the number of injured.

“The data we have now is that 25 people have been killed and hundreds are estimated to have suffered injuries,” he told AFP.

Residents gather around a collapsed building in  the town of Pidie, in Indonesia's Aceh province 

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Residents gather around a collapsed building in the town of Pidie, in Indonesia’s Aceh province  CREDIT: AFP

Local district secretary Iskandar Ali also confirmed the figure, citing preliminary data that showed at least 25 had died in the quake.

Rescue operations were under way to find those believed trapped beneath the rubble, with heavy machinery being used to shift the debris.

A witness said local residents were wandering the streets, unable to return to their damaged homes and fearing aftershocks.

Images from the scene showed homes levelled, mosque spires toppled and cars crushed under rubble.

Meureudu resident Hasbi Jaya, 37, said his family was asleep when the powerful quake struck.

“We immediately ran outside the house but it crumbled. Everything from the roof to the floor collapsed, and was destroyed,” he told AFP.

“I looked around and all my neighbours’ houses were also completely destroyed.”

The local hospital was struggling to cope, with the injured being treated on the ground outside the front of the building.

Patients were also being sent to a neighbouring district with greater facilities, said deputy district chief Said Mulyadi.

He said at least seven children were among the dead, and many more had suffered broken bones and other injuries.

“There are many shophouses that have caved in, and many (people) are alive but trapped,” he told AFP.

Seismologists said the earthquake was felt across much of Aceh province, which was devastated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

At least five aftershocks followed the quake, said Eridawati, local head of the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency.

The US Geological Survey upgraded the magnitude to 6.5 from an initial reading of 6.4 and issued a yellow alert for expected fatalities and damage.

Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire”, where tectonic plates collide.

Aceh lies on the northern tip of Sumatra island, which is particularly prone to quakes.

In June, a 6.5-magnitude quake struck off the west of Sumatra, damaging scores of buildings and injuring eight people.

A huge undersea earthquake in the Indian Ocean in 2004 triggered a tsunami that engulfed parts of Aceh.

The tsunami killed more than 170,000 people in Indonesia and tens of thousands more in other countries around the Indian Ocean.

(AFP)

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3 Dead, 12 Missing as Vietnamese Ship Hits Indonesian Boat

November 20, 2016

The Associated Press

 
 A boat sails past the wreckage of a ferry some 50km off the coast of Tuban in East Java, after the two vessels collided. Photo: FP

JAKARTA, Indonesia — A collision between a Vietnamese freighter and an Indonesian sailboat off Indonesia’s East Java province left three people dead and 12 others missing, Indonesia’s search and rescue agency said Sunday.

The cargo ship MV Thaison 4 and the KM Mulya Sejati, which was carrying 27 people, collided before dawn Saturday off Tuban district, said the head of the local Disaster Mitigation Agency, Joko Loediyono.

 The crew of a Vietnamese vessel and passengers on a ferry are rescued some 50km off the coast of Tuban in East Java. Photo: AFP

Media reports cited witnesses as saying the Indonesian boat capsized after being hit from behind by the freighter, which is now being moored in Lamongan town for investigation. The freighter, loaded with tapioca flour, was reportedly heading to Tanjung Perak seaport in East Java’s capital, Surabaya.

All of the victims were from the Indonesian boat, and 12 were rescued and rushed to a hospital for examination.

On Sunday afternoon, rescuers discovered three bodies by the stern of the ship, said the National Search and Rescue Agency, known as BASARNAS.

A search for the missing was underway with the help of the navy, which deployed two warships to join a helicopter from BASARNAS, Loediyono said.

Sea accidents are common in Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago nation, where boats are a popular and relatively cheap form of transportation.

 

 

Asian Leaders Worry Islamic State Fighters Will Flood Their Way After Mosul Falls

October 30, 2016

As US-backed war machine encircles the militant group’s last bastion in Iraq, experts warn battle-hardened foreign fighters will return home to wage jihad

BY BHAVAN JAIPRAGAS
South China Morning Post

30 OCT 2016

As Iraqi forces tighten the noose around Islamic State’s last bastion in the country, it’s tempting to hope that actions to wipe out its self-declared caliphate – one that has been characterised by rape, torture and summary beheadings – could deal the group a fatal blow.

Yet even those involved in the offensive on Mosul – described as the biggest battle in Iraq since the 2003 US invasion – acknowledge that rather than being a key step towards the total defeat of IS, it may instead lead to a shift in the theatre of conflict.

Iraqi pro-government forces south of Mosul ride in a vehicle adorned with an image of Iraqi Ayatollah Ali Husaini al-Sistani. Photo: AFP

There is rising concern among regional counterterrorism officials that the US-backed war machine encircling Islamic State (IS) is inadvertently spawning a jihadist alumni network in Southeast Asia and elsewhere made up of fleeing militants seeking a safe haven in their home countries.

“The threats posed by foreign terrorist fighter returnees are real and imminent,” Jeremy Douglas, the representative for the UNODC in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, told This Week in Asia . “Increasing military pressure on [IS] in Syria and Iraq is now expected to result in more returnees including many that will want to pursue violent jihad in the region.”

Trapped Mosul residents brace themselves as Islamic State digs in for fight: ‘Anyone who flees is shot dead’

The UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) estimates there are 516 Indonesians, 100 Filipinos, 100 Malaysians and two Singaporeans fighting in Syria and Iraq. If even just a handful of these battle-hardened fighters return to home soil, they have the potential to orchestrate large scale attacks either by working in small cells or as “lone wolves”.

A member of the Iraqi forces with a rocket propelled grenade launcher in al-Shura area, south of Mosul, ahead of the offensive. Photo: AFP

“We cannot underestimate the potential of returned IS fighters,” said Noor Huda Ismail, the founder of the Jakarta-based counselling group Institute for International Peace Building, who has been dubbed the “terrorist whisperer” for his efforts in deradicalising militants. “Attacks in Southeast Asia since 2002 have been linked to a single network of fighters [who have returned from Afghanistan] and Filipino Muslim rebels.”

Iraqi forces gather in the al-Shura area, south of Mosul, for the offensive to retake the city from Islamic State. Photo: AFP

This is not the first time the region has faced an influx of returning militants. In the late 1980s, home-grown veterans of the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan returned to take up leadership positions in the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiah. What has spooked many observers this time, however, is the difference in scale.

The UNODC’s Douglas said this generation of foreign fighters was unlike its predecessors. “The number that has travelled is much larger, is more operationally capable and they have access to resources and international criminal networks,” he said.

US special operations forces on the outskirts of Raqqa, in Syria. An operation to retake the IS stronghold is expected in coming weeks. Photo: AFP

The Iraqi forces circling Mosul – about 30,000 soldiers, backed by Kurdish militia and US advisers – are aiming to drive out an estimated 6,000 IS insurgents from the city of 1.5 million people.

Malaysia on alert as Mosul offensive stokes fears of militant influx

French President Francois Hollande this week urged coalition partners involved in the offensive to prepare for the aftermath. “The recapture is not an end in itself…we must also be very vigilant towards the return of foreign fighters,” Hollande said in Paris on Tuesday.

“If Mosul falls, Raqqa will be [IS’] last bastion,” said Hollande, referring to the Syrian city where a further 5,000 IS fighters are thought to be holed up and where a similar US-backed liberation is expected within weeks.

French President Francois Hollande has warned of the need for vigilance against returning foreign fighters. Photo: AFP

The US State Department estimates the group’s total number in Iraq and Syria at between 18,000 and 22,000. Membership of the militant group, which grew out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, swelled after it seized large swathes of land in Iraq and Syria in a lightning campaign in 2014. Its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi subsequently declared the establishment of an Islamic “caliphate” and urged Muslims around the world to migrate there.

Among the Southeast Asian militants who answered the call are thought to be the Indonesians Bahrun Naim, Abu Muhammad al-Indonesi (“Bahrumsyah”), Salim Mubarok Attamimi (“Abu Jandal”) and Malaysian Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi (“Abu Hamzah”)

Zachary Abuza, a Southeast Asian security and politics expert at the National War College in Washington, said the four had “considerable influence” and posed a threat to their home regions because of their ability to inspire radicalised individuals to carry out attacks in cells or as “lone wolves”, he said.

Iraqi forces advance towards Mosul. An operation to retake another IS stronghold, the Syrian city of Raqqa, is expected in coming weeks. Photo: AFP

Indonesian authorities say Naim was the mastermind behind the January gun and bomb attack in Jakarta that killed eight people and wounded dozens.

He is alleged to have direct links with a group of six Indonesian men who were planning to launch a rocket attack on Singapore’s glittering Marina Bay downtown district from a neighbouring island.

The plan was foiled after the men were arrested in a pre-dawn raid in early August.

Meanwhile, Malaysian police say Wanndy was behind the country’s first IS-linked incident – a grenade attack in June at a bar on the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur. Eight people were injured.

Iraqis flee Mosul fighting, only to arrive in ‘terrible’ camps that are ill-equipped and overflowing

Andrin Raj, the Malaysia-based regional director for the International Association for Counterterrorism and Security Professionals, said a video showed Wanndy calling on supporters who couldn’t afford to travel to Syria and Iraq “to contribute to the IS cause by attacking their home countries”.

Naim, 33, has a prominent public profile because of his activities on social media.

Iraqi families displaced by the operation against Islamic State in Mosul. Photo: AFP

This Week in Asia accessed a website purportedly linked to him that contained articles on bomb-making, covert online surveillance or “sniffing”, and commentaries on the state of Islamic militancy in various Asian countries. There is also an automated broadcast channel linked to him on the ultra-secure mobile messaging app Telegram.

Abuza said the web-savvy Indonesian was “key” to IS recruitment efforts in Southeast Asia. “Naim controls some of the most important social media and has been a key recruiter,” he said.

But “I would doubt that any of [the four] individuals could successfully make it back to Southeast Asia,” he said. “They clearly have significant influence and have proven able to organise or simply inspire attacks back at home. IS will demand far more attacks from its members and loyalists as it suffers on the battlefield, so these four remain very important.”

Some analysts say there is too little focus on IS threats emanating from Southeast Asian countries other than Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia.

Islamic State uses British hostage John Cantlieto in video tour of Mosul

A report this week by the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict said Southeast Asian counterterrorism agencies faced a knowledge gap on IS-linked developments in the Philippines.

“The Philippines is important because as far as the ISIS leadership is concerned, it is the extension of the caliphate in the region,” the report said.

“While it has not been formally declared as a province… ISIS has endorsed an Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, as emir of Southeast Asia, and Southeast Asians in Syria have pledged loyalty to him,” it said.

Displaced Iraqis who fled Mosul, Iraq’s last major Islamic State stronghold, are reunited with relatives at a refugee camp in the Khazer area, near the Kurdish checkpoint of Aksi Kalak. Photo: AFP

Abu Sayyaf – ‘bearer of the sword’ – is a southern Philippine Islamist militant group that has amassed millions of dollars from extortions, kidnappings and piracy. Its leader Hapilon has a US$5 million bounty on his head from the US State Department for the kidnappings of Americans in 2001.

Indonesia this week said some of its nationals were travelling to the Philippines to seek training with Islamic militants there.

An Iraqi refugee who fled Mosul, the last major Iraqi city under the control of the Islamic State group, carries water tanks at the UN-run Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria’s Hasakeh province. Photo: AFP

Thanawan Klumklomchit, the UNODC’s counterterrorism programme officer in Southeast Asia, said Abu Sayyaf’s “abilities to sustain and survive military pressure will be an important factor for [IS]’s development in the region”.

This would be especially so if IS faced “a growing need to redirect its fighters, resources, and operations outside Syria and Iraq,” she said.

WATCH: How does Islamic State get its money?

In Thailand, Thanawan said there were “reports of terrorist suspects and foreign terrorist fighters using the country to disguise travel patterns and transit, and to obtain fake travel documents”.

“While the direct threat of [IS] is limited for the moment, there are concerns that [IS] propaganda may find resonance among violent extremists in the deep south,” she said.

An Iraqi man checks the destruction in the Christian Iraqi town of Bartella, about 15km east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces retook control of the town from Islamic State. Photo: AFP

Thailand’s deep south has long been plagued by violence from Muslim insurgents.

Joseph Parkes, Asia security analyst at risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, said Singapore and Malaysia stood out for their advanced efforts aimed at “preventing and minimising the impact of an attack”.

Ancient Mosul mosque demolished, the latest holy site militants have destroyed

“Both have acknowledged that attacks on their soil are a matter of when, not if,” he said.

Still, he said the region’s overall threat level should be kept in perspective.

“Support for Islamic State in much of Southeast Asia is very low, and in absolute and relative terms, far fewer citizens have travelled to fight with Islamic State from Southeast Asia than from Europe,” Parkes said.

Noor Huda Ismail, ‘terrorist whisperer’. File photo

For terrorist whisperer Noor Huda, a “hearts and minds” campaign aimed at returning foreign fighters and their families could be key to keeping that threat level in check.

He is working on a documentary that will showcase the emotional torment faced by a middle-aged Indonesian woman whose son and husband are fighting alongside IS in Syria.

An earlier documentary he made, Jihad Selfie, which features an Indonesian mother’s efforts to deter her teenage son from taking up arms for IS, received critical acclaim this year for portraying the prominent role families play in turning militants away from violence.

Why are Malaysia, Singapore nervous as Iraq looks to retake Mosul from Islamic State?

“We must counter the narrative of IS, which is attractive to the man on the street…there is a social price to terrorism.

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“We cannot just leave counterterrorism to the state,” he said.

http://www.scmp.com/week-asia/geopolitics/article/2041069/when-mosul-falls-will-islamic-state-head-our-way

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Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that the Philippines and other Asian nations need to be ready to terrorism because militants may make the Philippines, and other parts of Asia, part of a new frontier of extremism