Al Fatihin: A newspaper for Malay-speaking IS militants

A Malay daily reported today that the publication called Al Fatihin was launched in southern Philippines on June 20, and is being distributed in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, southern Thailand, as well as southern Philippines itself. — Picture courtesy of Twitter/ TRACterrorism.org
A Malay daily reported today that the publication called Al Fatihin was launched in southern Philippines on June 20, and is being distributed in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, southern Thailand, as well as southern Philippines itself. — Picture courtesy of Twitter/ TRACterrorism.org

KUALA LUMPUR, July 11 — Terror group Islamic State (IS) is trying to increase its reach in South-east Asia by launching a Malay-language publication for its supporters in the region, according to a Berita Harian (BH) report.

The Malay daily reported today that the publication called Al Fatihin was launched in southern Philippines on June 20, and is being distributed in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, southern Thailand, as well as southern Philippines itself.

An unnamed security expert was quoted saying that the act can be seen as an “unofficial warning” that the Malay archipelago is in IS’s sights.

“This psychological campaign means that the terrorists have a big objective, which is to expand their influence among people who understand the Malay language,” said the source.

“Based on the way the language is used, we believe the writer or editor of the paper may be from this country,” the source added.

Al Fatihin means “The Conqueror” in Arabic.

A paper by the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore last month gave some details on the newspaper’s first issue’s contents.

The 20-page edition focussed on the month of Ramadan and the act of jihad or “holy struggle”, with a three-page message from Egyptian ideologue Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, calling on IS fighters to “continue their jihadist activities, search for martyrdom and kill and crucify the polytheists, disbelievers, oppressors and transgressors”.

It also featured Syrian martyr Abu Bilal al-Himshi, and various news excerpts from Raqqa in Syria to the Philippines, information and statistics on military operations, a map of IS provinces across the glove, and alms collection and distribution statistics in Syria.

According to BH, its editor also invited all militant groups in Indonesia and the Philippines to unite and pledge allegiance to IS leader and self-styled caliph Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Bukit Aman’s Special Branch Counter Terrorism Division senior assistant director Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay refused comment on the matter to the daily, claiming the matter was still being investigated.

However he told the daily that IS is believed to be expanding its media arms, in the fields of information technology, audio visual, processing and publishing to maintain its global communications.

“It is proven through the production of their official IS applications including an official ‘live broadcast’ radio from the official IS media centre in Iraq that is broadcasted all over the world,” said Ayub.

Regional security expert Bilveer Singh, an adjunct senior fellow at Centre of Excellence for National Security at RSIS recently warned of possible increase in IS activities in the region as the terrorist organisation has begun losing its hold on territories in Iraq and Syria.

There had been a recent increase of attacks linked to IS globally, including bombings at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, the slaying of hostages in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and in South-east Asia, a suicide bombing in Solo, Indonesia, as well as the grenade attack which injured eight people at a bar in Puchong — reportedly the first in Malaysia linked to the IS.