ISIS could move to Southeast Asia after losing territory in Iraq and Syria, Malaysian minister warns

Muhyiddin Yassin cautioned fellow ASEAN countries at a bloc meeting on transnational crime that the militant group was likely searching for a fresh base of operations.
Facebook/Muhyiddin Yassin 

ISIS is looking for a new base of operations – and Southeast Asia might just be it, Malaysia’s home minister has warned.

Muhyiddin Yassin cautioned fellow ASEAN countries at a bloc meeting on transnational crime in Bangkok on Wednesday (Nov 27) that the militant group was likely searching for a fresh base of operations after losing much of its territory in Syria and Iraq, Bernama reported.

Malaysia does not rule out probability of Daesh shifting its operation to Southeast Asia – MuhyiddinBANGKOK, Nov 27 –…

Posted by Muhyiddin Yassin on Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Malaysia is not ruling out the probability that ISIS may well shift to Southeast Asia following the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last October, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) quoted the minister as saying.

Al-Baghdadi committed suicide during a raid in Syria by US special forces.

“We believe that al-Baghdadi’s death will open up another chapter in Daesh’s terror operation. After losing much of its territory in Syria and Iraq, Daesh is also looking for a new base,” Bernama quoted him as saying.

Daesh is the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

Read also: Malaysia remains a ‘transit hub for terrorists’ – and it’s visa-free travel that makes it a ‘first choice’

Malaysia will remain vigilant of terrorists returning from abroad and possible lone-wolf attacks, Muhyiddin added in the Bernama report.

According to the minster, the country is monitoring online radicalisation on social media and terrorism financing through its financial intelligence networks, SCMP reported.

Last week, US counter-terrorism official Nathan Sales said there was a “a clear indication of an interest” among ISIS militants to head to Southeast Asia, but added that their top choice was still Africa, The Straits Times (ST) reported.

“ISIS continues to consider Southeast Asia as a safe haven foreign fighters can use as an alternative home base,” ST quoted Sales as saying. “ISIS, under the new leadership, still regards Southeast Asia as a land to wage jihad.”

Read also: Radicalised Indonesian domestic helpers who were detained had worked in Singapore for 6 to 13 years

Muhyiddin did not identify which country in Southeast Asia ISIS could move to, but the three countries in the region with strongest Islamic ties are Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.

Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population in the world – close to 90 per cent of citizens, according to the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.

Meanwhile, Malaysia is a “first-choice” transit hub for terrorists thanks to visa-free travel for those coming from the Middle East and Africa, according to the country’s counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan.

Over the past year, the country has freed a biochemist with ties to ISIS and AL-Qaeda, detained 12 people suspected of planning terror attacks, and debated over whether to deport an Islamic preacher with ties to Al-Qaeda.

Muhyiddin added that Malaysia had foiled 25 ISIS attacks and arrested 512 suspects over the past six years.

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