Report: Mindanao militants got funds, instructors from M’sia

abu-syyaf

KUALA LUMPUR: Four militant groups supportive of the Islamic State have been getting fighters, instructors or funding from Malaysia and Indonesia at various times, says a new report.

The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) report entitled “Pro-[IS] Groups in Mindanao and their Links to Indonesia and Malaysia” says in return these groups have provided refuge, training sites, combat experience or arms.

According to a report in the Jakarta Post, the newly released report reveals support for the IS radical movement has deepened among extremists in maritime Southeast Asia.

The IPAC report says it is important for law enforcement agencies in the region to have expertise on groups just outside their own borders, especially in Mindanao.

“Over the last two years, [IS] has provided a new basis for cooperation among extremists in the region,” IPAC director Sidney Jones was quoted by the Jakarta Post as saying on Tuesday.

“That cooperation could take on a new importance as [IS] losses in the Middle East increase, and the incentive to undertake violence elsewhere rises.”

The IPAC report warns that more fighters could be attracted to the Philippines as the jihad of choice as IS 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.”

The IPAC report examines four pro-[IS] groups in Mindanao and how each has links to operatives from other countries in the region. The four are: 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).

The IPAC report explores the history of Indonesia-Malaysia links to each of the four Philippine organisations, 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 states.