Report reveals Mindanao pro-ISIS groups’ links to Indonesia, Malaysia
A newly released report reveals support for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) radical movement has deepened among extremists in maritime Southeast Asia, rendering it paramount for law enforcement agencies in the region to have expertise on groups just outside their own borders. A better understanding of developments in Mindanao is particularly urgent, it further says.
The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) report entitled “Pro-[ISIS] Groups in Mindanao and their Links to Indonesia and Malaysia” examines four pro-[ISIS] groups in Mindanao and how each has links to operatives from other countries in the region.
They comprise the Basilan-based faction of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Ansarul Khilafa Philippines (AKP), the Maute group in Lanao del Sur, and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
Each has fighters, instructors or funding at different times from Indonesia or Malaysia and in turn has provided refuge, training sites, combat experience or arms, the report says.
“Over the last two years, [ISIS] has provided a new basis for cooperation among extremists in the region,” IPAC director Sidney Jones said on Tuesday.
“That cooperation could take on a new importance as [ISIS] losses in the Middle East increase, and the incentive to undertake violence elsewhere rises.”
The report explores the history of Indonesia-Malaysia links to each of the four Philippine organizations, showing how ties going back more than a decade to shared prison experience or fighting in the communal conflicts that erupted in Indonesia in 1999-2000 have come back into play in support of IS.
The report explains there is some evidence that the Maute group and the AKP have been able to use the appeal of the IS brand to attract university students. “The more extremists in Mindanao can attract educated and computer-savvy cadres, the greater the likelihood of cross-regional contact,” the report stated.
The report further says more fighters could also be attracted to the Philippines as the jihad of choice as ISIS gets pushed back in Syria and Iraq.
“As getting to Syria becomes increasingly difficult for Southeast Asian fighters, Mindanao may be the next best option,” Jones said. “The difference is that it’s easier to get home.”
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