KUALA LUMPUR: As the Islamic State’s (IS) territories continue to shrink in the Middle East, culminating in the loss of its stronghold Mosul in Iraq on Jul 10, its followers are hitting Southeast Asia in an attempt to show that it still exists.
In the southern Philippines, IS-linked fighters have laid siege to Marawi city for almost two months now, killing more than 500 people so far.
Warnings by Southeast Asian governments of attacks by returning IS foreign fighters are now unfolding in the region.
“The bomb attacks against police in Jakarta in May, knife attacks against police in Medan and Jakarta … are linked to IS losing territories in Mosul and in Syria,” an Indonesian counter-terrorism source told Channel NewsAsia.
“IS has always targeted the police but in recent times, they have stepped up calls for attacks against the police via social media and we have seen an increase in attacks,” the source added.
There are about two million IS members in Indonesia, according to terrorism expert Al Chaidar from the Malikussaleh University in Aceh.
“All these attacks were carried out by IS sympathisers … to bring the message that IS still exists,” Martinus Sitompul, Indonesian police spokesman, told Channel NewsAsia.
ISLAMIC STATE AT ITS “MOST DANGEROUS” FOLLOWING MOSUL LOSS
The Iraqi city of Mosul was where IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared an Islamic caliphate in 2014 and pronounced himself the leader of the world’s Muslims.
Three years on, with the loss of Mosul, analysts warn that the IS group is now at its most dangerous in Southeast Asia.
“The most dangerous people are the ones who have lost. They are not rational,” said independent Indonesian counter-terrorism and Middle East analyst Hasibullah Satrawi. “If we can understand this…