IS recruiting more militants than al-Qaeda in Asia
Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen says Islamic State has recruited more militants in the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) than al-Qaeda.
‘In the past three years alone, ISIS has recruited more sympathisers and operatives in ASEAN than al-Qaeda did in the last decade, with more than 1000 fighters in Iraq and Syria,’ Ng said during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
The Singapore minister said militants who have returned to Southeast Asia maintain an ideological link with IS in the Middle East on holy war, or ‘jihad’.
However, he stressed that the fight against Islamic terrorism was not a fight against Islam.
Ng added that terrorist groups today had developed more sophisticated strategies and had the ability to carry out more deadly attacks that could destabilise the region if countries did not act together to stop them.
He supported, for example, a proposal to conduct joint patrols by Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines in the Sulu Sea in southwestern Philippines – a hub for radical groups like Abu Sayyaf.
‘Security forces, including militaries of individual countries, will have to combat terrorism rigorously … collectively, we must work closely together to build up joint responses, and strengthen intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts,’ Ng said.
The Shangri-La security forum which ends Sunday saw some 600 delegates from Asia, Europe, United States and Australia attend talks in Singapore.
Members countries of ASEAN are Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.