10 February 2016
Of the more than 1,000 South-east Asian combatants for the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, together with 2,000 to 3,000 camp followers, some are poised to return home in the near future. This is likely to have serious political and security implications for the region.
The majority of South-east Asian fighters are from Indonesia and Malaysia, with a token presence from Thailand, the Philippines and possibly Myanmar. About 70 South-east Asians are believed to have been killed in combat, while another 200 or so are said to have returned. Many of the returnees in South-east Asia were captured in transit en route to Syria. For example, more than 170 Indonesians were detained on the Turkish-Syrian border before they could cross into Syria.
What is in store for South-east Asia with IS returnees is far more serious than the Afghan returnees in the 1980s. Only a coordinated regional policy will be able to manage this potentially grave threat. This is because South-east Asia will have to overcome a regional and extra-regional terrorist threat under the auspices of Katibah Nusantara, the IS affiliate in the region, besides many South-east Asians fighting for other groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliate.
… Jasminder Singh is a Senior Analyst with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
ICPVTR / Online / Print
Last updated on 10/02/2016