Indonesian, Malaysian Links to Filipino Extremists a Threat to Region: Report

BenarNews staff
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161025-ID-IPAC-620.jpg Philippine officials display Islamic State flags and weapons recovered after a firefight on the southern island of Mindanao that killed Indonesian Ibrahim Ali Sucipto and seven others, Nov. 27, 2015.

Southeast Asian law enforcers are not prepared for a growing cross-border threat from Malaysian and Indonesian militants declaring loyalty to a Filipino leader who has been endorsed by the Islamic State (IS), according to a new report.

While the Middle East-based terror group has been able to deepen cooperation among extremists in Southeast Asia, most law enforcement agencies retain a national orientation and lack in-house expertise on groups outside their borders, the Jakarta think-tank Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) said in its report published on Tuesday.

“At a time when an accurate assessment of the security threat in Indonesia or Malaysia may depend in part on understanding developments in the Philippines, this gap needs to be filled. It is especially urgent because in the short term, ISIS losses in the Middle East could increase the incentive to undertake acts of violence at home,” IPAC said in its 28-page report, referring to IS by another acronym.

As an example of Southeast Asian militants unifying across borders, IPAC cited a video posted on YouTube four months ago that showed Malaysian Mohd Rafi Udin and Indonesian Mohd Karim Yusop Faiz declaring allegiance to Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the southern Philippines who has been endorsed by IS as its emir in Southeast Asia.

When the video was disseminated in June, IPAC Director Sidney Jones said it appeared to be a preliminary step to declaring the southern Philippines a Southeast Asian province of IS. Such a declaration had not been made as of Tuesday.

The report pointed to possible implications of Indonesian and Malaysian militants supporting groups allied with IS in the Philippines.

“It has facilitated cooperation across clan and ethnic lines, widened the extremist recruitment pool to include computer-savvy university students and opened new international communication and possibly funding channels,” it warned.

“It means that more deadly violence in the Philippines involving alliances of pro-ISIS groups is a matter of when, not if. It may also increase the possibility of cross-border extremist operations,” it claimed.

‘Wild card’

The southern Philippines, where Abu Sayyaf and other militant groups are active and have carried out abductions of foreigners, lies just across the Sulu and Celebes seas from Indonesian and Malaysian Borneo.

According to IPAC, Abu Sayyaf holds “the Malaysian wild card” because Basilan in the southern Philippines, an island which is home to the militant group, has close ties to Sandakan, a town in the East Malaysia state of Sabah. “[The] Malaysian connection has been a source for years for personnel and funding,” the report stated.

“More interesting, and more dangerous because better educated and more ideological, are the Malaysians who linked up with Basilan ASG from peninsular Malaysia.”

The report named three men, Mahmud Ahmad, formerly a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Malaya; Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee (alias Abu Nur); and Mohd. Najib bin Husein (alias Abu Anas al-Muhajir), who was killed in December 2015. The three left as a group for the southern Philippines in April 2014.

“Malaysians, like other foreigners, have the advantage of not being bound by Philippine clan and family links, and they can move easily among different groups. They can provide expertise, international contacts and perhaps funding,” the report said.

The report also delved into the case of Indonesian bomb-making instructor Ibrahim Ali Sucipto, who had become a key assistant to the leader of the IS-linked Ansarul Khilafah Philippines at the time of his death during a battle with Philippine soldiers in late November 2015.

IPAC described Sucipto as a conduit for funding through Indonesia, a source of weapons for the Eastern Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) when it was led by Santoso, and a direct link to Katibah Nusantara, IS’s Malay-speaking fighting unit in Syria.

“ISIS has brought an ideological justification for unity that has turned into operational collaboration” the report concluded.

“Even as ISIS declines in strength, it is more important than ever to understand the followers it has spawned in Southeast Asia and how they are interacting with each other.”


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