JAYA PRAKASH's picture
ISIS has never been this dangerous
Posted on Jul 31, 2017

ISIS has never looked this desperate, and certainly never this dangerous.

Over the weekend of 30 July 2017, authorities from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and New Zealand met in the Indonesian city of Manadao to map out what is possibly a viably concrete plan to meet and defeat the threat emanating from the vicious group.

Though no details were available to the press or public (details of security operations are always kept under lock and key) the modus operandi involved will focus on tight information sharing, hawk-like surveillance of territorial waters, and the interdiction of suspect cargo on the high seas.

Since the collapse of communism in Asia, some 30-odd years ago, the threat posed by ISIS has never more potent. Never a day goes by when ministers and political leaders in Asia do not exhort its people to stay united in the face of threats from ISIS, whose only aim, they say, is to sow discord amongst various communities.

Information sharing, which was relied upon heavily in the fight against communism is once again back in fashion. There is no denying the effectiveness information-sharing plays.

From the interdiction of contraband cargo, like drugs and firearms, to the role it played preempting a rocket attack on Singapore last year, and foiling of other suspected attempts (such as last year when radicals targeted Singapore’s seaport and stock exchange), a collective spirit of collegial cooperation stands firm in the battle for hearts and minds in the vast Asian expanse of diverse communities and peoples.

As reported by Singapore’s TODAY paper, Global Consultancy firm, Aon, described Singapore’s risk levels as being ‘negligible to low’ – but even with a low rating, the report released in conjunction with Roubini Global Economics and The Risk Advisory Group, added that Singapore has the ‘potential risk of terrorism and sabotage’ especially when considering a series of cyber attacks that the city-state has suffered, and the recent apprehension of radicalized police personnel and a school teacher.  

"This is a reflection of the increased terrorist activity in neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia," Mr Julian Taylor, head of crisis management (Asia) at Aon Risk Solutions is quoted as saying. But the Philippines and Indonesia ranked as the most dangerous places to be,, the report said.

“With the emergence of Isis, (there is) the radicalisation of local populations in Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, even China. These are real issues we face in 2017, and that has gotten worse since 9/11 [...] There’s just an overriding sense that this is going to be exported sadly to these shores’, the newspaper continued.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), which is the equivalent of America’s Homeland Security Department, has warned that threat levels to Singapore are at the highest levels in recent years. The MHA squarely blames rising threat levels on ISIS, which it says is largely responsible for Singapore’s reconfiguring of its security landscape.

Another reason why Singapore will always be a target, the MHA adds, is the presence of a large number of Western commercial interests in the city-state, as well as the logistical and military support the nation had lent to international anti-terror campaigns.

– Jaya Prakash is a defence and security journalist based in Singapore