IS trying to expand foothold in Southeast Asia: Report

Kuala Lumpur, Jul 11: Terrorist group Islamic State (IS) is trying to expand its foothold in Southeast Asia by launching a Malay-language newspaper to woo its supporters in the region, according to a report today.

The newspaper named Al-Fatihin - meaning 'The Conqueror' in Arabic - was launched in southern Philippines on June 20 and is being distributed in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, southern Thailand, as well as southern Philippines where Muslims speak the Malay language.

IS expanding foothold in Southeast Asia'

The move can be seen as an "unofficial warning" that the Malay archipelago is in ISIS's sights, an unnamed security expert was quoted as saying in the report by Malay daily Berita Harian (BH).

"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 expert.

"Based on the way the language is used, we believe the writer or editor of the paper may be from this country," the expert added. A paper by the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, last month provided some details on the newspaper's first issue.

The 20-page edition focussed on the month of Ramzan 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".

According to BH, its editor 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.

Malaysia's Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division senior assistant director Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay refused comment on the matter but said the IS is believed to be expanding its media arm, in the fields of information technology, audio visual, processing and publishing to maintain its global communications.


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