Selangor Journal

Don’t underestimate threat of DAESH in Southeast Asia

SHAH ALAM, JUL 3: The one-month long battle between the Philippine armies and the militants who had vowed allegiance to Daesh leader (Islamic State), Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi, in order to capture Marawi city in Mindanao is a reminder not to underestimate the threat from that terrorist group in the Southeast Asia.
The fierce fight on the streets of Marawi took hundreds of lives from to armies, militants and the public and it showed Daesh’s increasing influence in Southeast Asia although many of its members were killed in battle and its declining influence in Iraq and Syria.
An anti-terrorism expert said, Daesh’s defeat in the Middle East may have lulled governments in Southeast Asia to belittle its threat which is increasingly spreading in the region.
“Islamic State (Daesh) is far more advanced in Southeast Asia than predicted earlier,” said Phill Hynes, the head for political and risk analyst at ISS Risk based in Hong Kong, during a panel discussion titled “Can Southeast Asia become the New Islamic State Frontliners” in Thailand Foreign Reporters’ Club recently.
Bernama reported that the fighting in Marawi demonstrated the ability of local militant groups, Maute and Abu Sayyaf who joined forces with Daesh, to plan and deploy large-scale terror operations such as capturing and occupying the coastal city in the southern Philippines populated by 200,000 people.
Its ability to withstand attacks by Philippine military, who has a more complete arsenal including air strikes, for over a month, proved again that Daesh military’s capability and confidence are increasing.
The local militant group entrenched in Marawi is said to be led by the most wanted terrorist, Isnilon Hapilon, so much so the US government even offered a reward of USD5 million for his capture.
According to Hynes, the development in Marawi can inspire the group and eventually pull other members from outside to look at Southeast Asia as a new battleground.
“The fight in Marawi is an inspiration to Daesh followers, not necessarily as an attempt to create a ‘region’ in Southeast Asia. It is to inspire all of them, their followers and create a momentum,” said the expert.
He said countries in this region need to improve their ability to deal with the threats that triggered by Daesh and its supporters and not suffer the same fate as the Philippines.
He was surprised with the failure of Manila’s intelligence to predict the militant’s movement in Marawi, which he said showed how Philippines is the weakest in the region in the fight against Daesh.
Another panel member, Endy Bayuni who is the Jakarta Post senior editor said, the violent ideology promoted by Daesh has failed to attract supporters and followers from Indonesia although the country has the most Muslim population in the world.
“Daesh is not popular in Indonesia,” he said. He also estimated a merely 500 people in Indonesia who are affected by the ideology and said that the country’s moderate approach to Islam is the main reason the idealogy is rejected by most of its citizens.
He described several incidents involving Daesh supporters in the country as isolated cases and do not provide a true picture of Indonesia as a moderate Muslim country.
Meanwhile, another member of the panel, Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat said Thailand remains free of any Daesh related issues.

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