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Southeast Asia Struggles With Syrian Terror Nexus

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

With some Southeast Asian Muslims raising funds and recruiting fighters for Syria, concerns are growing that these activities will eventually raise the risk of terrorism in the region. The numbers are still low, but some governments—Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in particular—are beginning to wonder what the impact will be a few years hence if some of their extremist nationals or neighbors come back with new skills.

The past decade has seen a steady decline in the extremist threat from the region, which was once seen as a possible “second front” for al-Qaida. Enhanced vigilance, good law enforcement, reasonably cooperative interstate relations, the peaceful resolution of communal conflicts in Indonesia and the closing of major terrorist training centers have combined to weaken the networks that had posed the biggest threat. Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), the group responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings, once had a presence in five countries. But by 2003, it had largely been reduced to Indonesia, and its leaders decided to end violent action there in 2007. They argued that it had become counterproductive, caused unnecessary Muslim deaths, had weakened the organization through arrests and was not supported by the community. JI should therefore focus on religious outreach and education until the organization could be rebuilt, the leaders believed. ...

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