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Motorists ride past graffiti of the Islamic State flag in Solo, Central Java, Indonesia, March 8, 2014 (AP photo).

Islamic State Returnees Reawaken Extremist Threat for Southeast Asia

Monday, May 11, 2015

After a steady decline in Islamist extremism in Southeast Asia over the past decade, during which the region shed its post-9/11 image as a possible second front for al-Qaida, the rise of the self-declared Islamic State (IS) has some governments fearing a new threat. In response, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore in particular are acting individually, bilaterally and regionally to stem recruitment, radicalization and the flow of foreign fighters.

Over 500 young Southeast Asians are returning home after fighting for IS, as many did during the Afghan mujahedeen’s jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Given that over 40 percent of the population of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is Muslim, countries with sizable Muslim populations are worried that some of their citizens will grow to sympathize with IS and perhaps carry out attacks at home. The Philippines has expressed concerns about local militant groups pledging allegiance to IS, while Thailand, with its own local Malay-Muslim southern insurgency still raging, is closely monitoring the situation. ...

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