Experts have warned SE Asia is at particular risk of becoming a safe haven for returning IS terror trainees.
Despite an absence of data in support of such a trend, regional governments have repeatedly expressed concern about the potential for the southern Philippines to become a haven for returnee fighters and other extremists.
Since January 2018, the authorities have arrested two foreign IS suspects, a North African in Manila and a Spaniard in Basilan. And the Malaysian authorities announced in late February that they had arrested 10 people suspected of smuggling IS fighters into the southern Philippines, according to Aon’s new risk report.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace treaty with the Philippine government in 2014, corroborated these reports of IS infiltration in late 2017 and early 2018. It said that an unspecified number of IS fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East had entered the country, and that pro-IS groups are planning to launch attacks against the cities of Iligan and Cotabato in Mindanao.
Risk Advisory recorded seven Jihadist attacks in Indonesia in 2017 – including a double suicide bombing at a bus station in West Jakarta in May 2017 – and none in Malaysia and Singapore, compared with 14 attacks in Malaysia and Indonesia in 2016. However, the threats of terrorist attacks is still generally high across the region, particularly attacks mounted by lone actors using crude and improvised weapons.
So far, regional security forces have been largely effective in monitoring and disrupting networks that are planning attacks. The authorities disrupted a total of 11 plots in Malaysia and Indonesia in 2017, and none have been reported publicly in Singapore after at least two foiled plots in the city state the previous year.