An estimated 12,000 ISIS fighters in the wind . . .
The Turkish offensive on the Kurdish holdout in northeast Syria may have implications for Southeast Asia. The Kurds have detained an estimated 12,000 fighters from the so-called Islamic State (ISIS) and their family members. Those fighters are expected to escape and flee as the Kurds are pushed out of the area. According to Asia Times, 700 Indonesians and 50 Malaysians were held by the Kurds, some of whom have connections to ISIS. If these ISIS militants escape Syria, they could return to their home countries.
ISIS views SE Asia as potential region for expansion . . .
Since 2014, militant groups in Southeast Asia – notably in Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines – have pledged allegiance to ISIS, which in turn has not been oblivious to these pledges and has made efforts to recruit local followers. Mostly notably, in May 2017, ISIS militants in the Philippines lay siege to the city of Marawi in the southern part of the country for five months before the U.S.-trained Philippine military was able to defeat them. And since 2018, there have been 11 ISIS suicide bombings in Indonesia and six in the Philippines. The Indonesian police also suspect that the man arrested for stabbing the country’s security minister in early October was exposed to ISIS ideology.
A question of containment . . .
In Malaysia and Indonesia, security officials have expressed concerns that the return of ISIS fighters and their families could strengthen local ISIS groups, forcing local governments to work on containing their influence. Since 2013, Malaysia has arrested 519 militants, many of whom have links to ISIS. There have also been interstate collaborations in maritime patrols to stop the movements of ISIS militants across the region. However, the heavy-handed tactics that governments deploy in their efforts to root out ISIS may backfire. The Philippines military’s indiscriminate air strikes and human rights abuses in Marawi may in fact further radicalization among Muslim minorities in the country.
- Asia Times: SE Asia braces for new wave of ISIS militants
- Foreign Affairs: The Islamic state meets Southeast Asia
- South China Morning Post: ‘ISIS Version Two’: Indonesia, Malaysia fear return of ISIS fighters jailed in Syria after Trump’s troop withdrawal