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Sealing off the IS

  • These people are like walking time bombs ready to go off any time to threaten regional security and stability.

Sin Chew Daily

Lat month, the Philippine military launched a fierce operation against the Abu Sayyaf and Maute militants loyal to the IS group in Marawi on the southern island of Mindanao.

These radicals were prepared to kill the local Christians during the Muslim fasting month in mocking similar acts of violence across Syria and Iraq.

IS' influences in Syria and Iraq have been dwindling, and Southeast is emerging as another place they can expand their forces.

The Philippines is fast becoming a major transit point for them in Asia. Manila's most wanted man Isnilon Hapilon, one of the leaders of Abu Sayyaf, was designated last year as the IS chief in Southeast Asia.

Malaysian police intelligence show that Mahmud Ahmad, an IS coordinator and former lecturer at UM's Islamic studies faculty, is a member of the radical group. Mahmud allegedly received more than 30 million pesos (approximately RM2.55 million) from the IS group to acquire weapons, food and other provisions to facilitate his attacks.

It has been earlier said that Mahmud was killed in the military operation but the Malaysian police said he was still alive, citing a reliable source, and that he had already fled Marawi. It was believed that he was with Hapilon.

What has so far been confirmed is that four Malaysian extremists were killed in the operation. These Malaysians, along with others from Singapore, Indonesia and Pakistan, joined the IS group in an attempt to expand the IS influences from the Philippines to the whole of Southeast Asia.

The Malaysian police believe at least 20 Malaysian militants are still operating in southern Philippines. However, the identities of these radicals have yet to be ascertained, and it is equally unsure whether they are with Mahmud Ahmad.

The Malaysian and Philippine authorities are hunting down these people, but since their whereabouts are unknown, they are like walking time bombs ready to go off any time to threaten the security and stability of both Malaysia and the Philippines.

It is learned that there are already 62 Southeast Asian outfits that have pledged loyalty to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in establishing a regional IS cell with southern Philippines as its hub. Once a base has been successfully set up, IS is poised to expand its influences to Malaysia, Indonesia and even Thailand, enabling them to launch even more potent attacks in the region.

The Sulu terrorists attempted to intrude into Sabah a couple of years ago, and we must remain highly alert that IS will very likely follow the same path by infiltrating into Malaysia through Sabah.

It is imperative that we work closely with Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei in maritime defense to completely fend off these radicals.

In addition, we must also join hands to launch offensives against the extremists to prevent IS from teaming up with Abu Sayyaf and Maute militants in southern Philippines to penetrate regional countries.


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