17 January 2016
Preparations are underway to proclaim an Islamic State branch in the Southern Philippines, while the Indonesian military has pre-empted IS plans to declare a provincial satellite in eastern Indonesia. Such a foothold will have far-reaching consequences for the stability of the region.
The so-called Islamic State (IS) is likely to create IS branches in the Philippines and Indonesia in 2016. Although the Indonesian military pre-empted IS plans to declare a satellite state of the “caliphate” in eastern Indonesia, IS is determined to declare such an entity in at least one part of Southeast Asia. Preparations to proclaim an IS branch in the southern Philippines reflect the growing influence of IS ideology in the region.
The latest act of terrorist violence in Jakarta on 14 January 2016 highlights the clear danger posed to Southeast Asia by IS. Though their identities and affiliation have not been determined the modus operandi of the terrorists in attacking a major shopping mall in the commercial heart of the Indonesian capital, suggests a close parallel with similar attacks in Istanbul and Paris by IS-related groups. Although the number of casualties has been limited, thanks to the prompt response of the Jakarta police, the attacks by guns and grenades indicate a scaling up of the terror tactics employed.
After a year-long discussion between the local groups that pledged allegiance to the self-appointed caliph Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in 2014-2015, the Shura Council appointed Isnilon Hapilon to lead the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the Philippines. Hapilon is the leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan (the largest island in the Sulu Archipelago). If IS succeeds in creating a safe haven in Basilan and mounts operations from the Sulu Archipelago into both Philippines and Malaysia it will pose a threat to the entire region. The creation of training camps will lure not only Southeast Asians but other nationalities as well – from Australians to Chinese Uighurs, who cannot easily reach Syria. Considering the importance given to Malaysia by Hapilon, Malaysians are likely to travel and join IS in Mindanao. The nationalities trained in the new IS province to carry out the IS vision are likely to be a threat to their home countries. In addition to enforcing the IS brand of governance, IS type beheadings and mass fatality and casualty attacks are likely.
… Rohan Gunaratna is Professor of Security Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) and head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) at RSIS, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. An earlier version of this article appeared in The Straits Times.
GPO / ICPVTR / Online
Last updated on 19/01/2016