Countering the threat of Islamist extremism in South-east Asia

Terrorist activities persist despite the pandemic and may escalate because of external factors. A two-track, hard-soft strategy is needed to check their growth in the region

Philippine soldiers keeping watch in May during the ongoing reconstruction of Marawi. A five-month-long conflict there in 2017 between Islamist separatist insurgents and the Philippine military led to over a million civilians being displaced. Without
Philippine soldiers keeping watch in May during the ongoing reconstruction of Marawi. A five-month-long conflict there in 2017 between Islamist separatist insurgents and the Philippine military led to over a million civilians being displaced. Without active and continuous intervention by the Philippine government, these disgruntled internally displaced persons may become radicalised, replenishing the ranks of pro-ISIS networks.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

In spite of the apparent defeat and decline of Al-Qaeda and ISIS in the Middle East, violent extremism linked to the two terrorist organisations continues to pose an ideological and security threat to South-east Asia.

As the recent Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report compiled by the Singapore Government indicates, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), following the "demise of its so-called caliphate", has "re-envisioned the caliphate as an overarching global state rather than one territorially confined to Iraq and Syria".

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 19, 2021, with the headline 'Countering the threat of Islamist extremism in South-east Asia'. Subscribe