KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 ― Malaysians have joined the terrorist group Islamic State's (IS) new battalion in the Philippines, a Singapore-based terrorism expert has said.
Dr Rohan Gunaratna, who heads the Singapore-based Nanyang Technological University's International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said the new regional base was set up due to difficulties faced by IS recruits in going to Syria and Iraq.
“Now we have seen that in the Philippines, IS has created Katibah Al-Muhajir, the Battalion of Migrants. They are (made up of) Malaysians and Indonesians,” he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times today.
“There are about 10 Malaysians (there now),” he added, citing intelligence on the new battalion.
Citing an IS propaganda video released last month, Rohan said the militant group told its Southeast Asian supporters to head to the battalion in the Philippines instead if they found it hard to go to Syria and Iraq.
Rohan reportedly said the new battalion is based in the Philippines' island province of Basilan within the country's autonomous region of Muslim Mindanao.
“The Philippines can be a very important launching pad to reach Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore because southern Philippines is very centrally located,” he said, noting that regional militants have already changed their focus to the new battalion base instead of IS's base in Syria and Iraq.
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar reportedly said the police is carrying out an investigation.
Earlier this week, Khalid confirmed that the June 28 grenade attack which injured eight people at a bar in Puchong was the first successful attack in Malaysia linked to the IS.