IS looking to expand reach in Southeast Asia: US
Indonesian police walks as guard after a suicide bomb attack at the police station on July 5, 2016 in Solo City, Indonesia. Photograph: (Getty)
Islamic State is looking to expand its reach in Southeast Asia, according to a senior official working for the US Department of State.
The jihadist militant group is trying to broaden its network in the region by joining forces with local extremists, said Justin Siberell, acting coordinator for counter-terrorism at the US State Department.
He said the IS's plans to forge ties with regional jihadists was similar to the way they expanded in Egypt, Libya and Nigeria.
"My understanding is that they have looked at existing groups across the (Southeast) region," Siberell said via a concall from Washington.
"We're concerned about the rise of new IS affiliates and we're working with governments to do what they can to prevent that," he told Asia-based journalists.
Siberell also informed people from Southeast Asia fighting for IS have been grouped in a unit called Katibah Nusantara. The worry, he said, was the potential consequences in the region once they returned home.
There have been minor attacks in the region so far, but the analyst reckoned that terrorism activities might surge once the IS's networking in the region strengthened.
The attacks so far in the region have remained largely low key. Terror cells are active in the region but the devastation levels have been far below to what Europe has experienced in recent times.
But recent attacks in Malaysia and Indonesia have alarmed security analysts. In June, eight people were wounded in a grenade attack outside a bar in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The following month, IS planned to launch a suicide bomb attack on Indonesian police, only for the plan to derail as the blast killed only the bomber.
(WION with inputs from agencies)