IS spreading influence in region

Islamic State is seeking to establish a presence in Southeast Asia and has a growing presence in Australia, a new study warns.


Between 100 and 250 Australians have joined ISIL and other Sunni militant groups in Iraq and Syria, most recruited from the radical al-Rasalah salafist centre in Sydney, says RAND Corporation senior political scientist Peter Chalk.

The study, released by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, says ISIL’s prime focus has been on establishing its caliphate but it has also sought to establish a presence beyond the Middle East.

Most concern has centred on Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

In Australia, several terrorist attacks planned in ISIL’s name have been thwarted but others have occurred.

The government has responded by toughening up terror legislation with authorities able to strip some IS recruits of their citizenship.

Mr Chalk said Australia was one of the United States’ closest allies, which played an active part in the downfall of Saddam Hussein and was now contributing troops and combat aircraft to the war against ISIL.

“All of this makes Australia a logical magnet for ISIL aggression,” he said.

Mr Chalk said up to 150 Malaysians and possibly more than 500 Indonesians had travelled to the Middle East to fight with ISIL. Some Malaysians had returned and were encouraging heightened domestic militancy.

Malaysia, generally regarded as the main focal point for ISIL activity in Southeast Asia, has admitted at least 71 soldiers have some connection with ISIL. More than 2000 Indonesians are thought to have declared their support for ISIL.

Mr Chalk said most of the Malaysians with ISIL are thought to be fighting alongside Indonesia volunteers, with growing concerns of a trans-national force able to operate across the region.

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