Asean joins war on ISIS

Renews vow to campaign vs radicals, extremists

THE foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Sunday issued their first joint statement against the Islamic State and supported United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding that members suppress the flow of terrorist fighters and financing.

“Asean denounces all acts of destruction, violence and terror in all its forms and manifestations,” the 10-nation bloc said in a statement that was released after a ministerial dialogue with the United States at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

“Asean renews its commitment to work with the international community to fight against extremism, radicalism and terrorism and address its root causes,” the bloc added.

Asean “expressed concern over the rise of violence and brutality committed by terrorist/extremist organizations and radical groups in Iraq and Syria, noting that these groups [pose a threat] to the rest of the world,” the statement said.

Terror fugitive Marwan
While President Benigno Aquino III declared while he was in New York last week that the Philippines supports the allied attacks on IS targets in Iraq and Syria, no Asean country has yet announced plans to participate in military operations.

But as many as 200 Indonesians and at least 30 Malaysians have traveled to Syria to fight with the Islamic State and other rebel groups via countries such as Egypt and Turkey, according to a report last month by New York-based Soufan Group, which provides strategic analysis to governments.

The extremists Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has also claimed that it sent 200 Filipino fighters  in a “do or die” mission to fight alongside Islamic State rebels and were led by a leader identified only as Mohamad Husin Aljabouree.

BIFF leader Samer Samsudin claimed the BIFF fighters were able to slip out of the country from their hideout in Maguindanao by using the country’s backdoor to Malaysia, where they boarded a plane bound to the Middle East.

Also in July, videos of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon showing him pledging allegiance to the Islamic State appeared on YouTube, but security officials said it was only a ploy to raise money and there was no proof that IS is indeed Filipino youth to their cause.

But Malaysia had earlier warned the Philippine governments that five suspected IS jihadists have slipped out of Sabah and are believed to be hiding in Mindanao, according to Sabah security chief Abdul Rashid Harum.

It is not the first time Malaysia terrorist would seek refuge in Mindanao after Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir, alias Marwan, sought refuge from the BIFF where he is believed to be teaching Filipino jihadists how to make bombs.

The Philippine military had earlier claimed it was able to kill Marwan in a US-backed air raid on the Sulu island in 2012, but Marwan was confirmed to be still alive earlier this year.

Marwan carries a $5 million reward for his capture offered by the United States government along with Isnilon Hapilon, who was recently shown in a propaganda video pledging allegiance to the IS.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Kuala Lumpur fears that 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 of Malaysia reported on Sunday.

The paper quoted Hishammuddin as saying he will be meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak to discuss allocating funds to safeguard the country’s waters.

The Bureau of Immigration on Saturday asked the armed forces to help identify persons of interest so that they can be blocked from entering or leaving the country.

Former police intelligence chief Rodolfo Mendoza urged security officials to take terror threats seriously, no matter how remote they think they are.

“They should established effective security that will not only evaluate the ISIS threat but put up sub-systems of tactical and intelligence strategy as well,” Mendoza said .

To boost border security between Malaysia and the Philippines, Hishammuddin said Kuala Lumpur will deploy a container freighter vessel, MT Mas Lima to the waters off Sabah to serve as a forward base from which they can interdict militants and criminals trying to enter Sabah.

In Indonesia, security forces have been put on alert after Indonesian and Malaysian jihadists in Syria formed a military unit for Malay-speaking ISIS fighters, a move that could spread to other parts of Southeast Asia.

Called the Katiba Nusantara Lid Islamiyyah, the unit supposedly already has 22 members and they are station at a Syrian town called Al-Shadadi in Hasaka province. The group has threatened to demolish the Borobudur temple in Java, Indonesia.

“Governments and Muslim community organizations must maintain vigilance against attempts by misguided leaders to spread propaganda to recruit Muslim youth to extremism and violence,” said Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

“Governments should criminalize by law its nationals advocating, supporting or participating in fighting overseas.” - With Bloomberg

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