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ISIS: Means Of Cutting Off Financing And Recruitment For Terrorists In South East Asia

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Introduction

Two big pillars that enable a Terrorist Organisation to fight are Finance and Human capital. The Islamic State’s (IS) speed and scale of recruiting foreign fighters in modern times has caught the world off guard (Hegghammer, 2013; Lang & Al Wari, 2016). Based on an estimate by European Commission’s Radicalisation Awareness Network (2017), as many as 40,000 fighters from around the world have since joined IS even before they declared their caliphate in June 2014. But with their impending elimination in Syria, the Global Strategy Network and the Soufan Center estimates that close to 5,600 fighters have since left and returned home (Barrett, 2017). Within that group, 20 percent of the fighters were from Southeast Asia, and some of them have already been joined their local terror groups, or have conducted their own attacks. The recent spate of terrorist attacks in Indonesia, Jakarta in 2016 (), Surabaya in 2018 (), is testament that their potential threat. To fund these efforts, groups have turned to crimes and maritime terrorism ().These attacks illustrate how returning fighters strengthen the incumbent groups, and leverage on these pockets of support to complicate the security landscapes. And with every success, it aids the recruitment of new members such as the two Singaporeans wanting to join ISIS in June 2019. Against this backdrop, it is imperative to examine the nature of their financing and recruitment to develop robust plan to stifle their operations.

Since 9/11, the SAF took significant steps to enhance its ability to respond to against these peacetime threats (). Task forces were stood up to respond immediately to threats affecting our Homeland security, Maritime security and the Airspace (). The Island Defence Task Force, is tasked to safeguard our homeland security with other government agencies such as the Singapore Police Force. At sea, the Maritime Security Task Force is tasked to secure the water ways to ensure smooth passage for movement along the straits around us. The Air Defence Task Force keeps a close watch over the skies. However, these task forces are reactionary in nature, and they can only respond when terror strikes, giving them first mover advantage. Within the short time that the forces are activated to the point that arrive on scene, the perpetrators would have already laid to waste the scene of terror, and the chaos and attention craved by the terrorists would have been achieved.

As more foreign fighters return to South East Asia, the threat potential increases. Together with groups like Abu Sayyaaf of the Philippines and Jemaah Islamiah of Indonesia, operating on behalf of IS, their threat cannot be underestimated. While the success of the SAF is determined by the lack of incidents, she must never rest on her laurels. Terror groups continue to improve their tactics, from singular attacks to coordinated attacks between cities across the country such as the Sri Lanka Easter Attacks earlier this year. SAF’s greatest challenge is to ensure that terrorist never succeed. To achieve this, beyond direct action on the Terror groups, is to work beyond her shores to cut off financing and recruitment in South East Asia and also Singapore while building on the deterrent efforts and strengthening our response mechanisms.

To discuss means of cutting off financing and recruitment for terrorists in South East Asia, this dissertation will first discuss the recent actions so as to better understand their current scale of operations as well as the SAF’s plans to strengthen her counter terrorism capabilities. Following that, the dissertation will explore the terror finance mechanisms and the success of SAF’s response to their efforts. Lastly, the IS’s propaganda machine played a big part in attracting recruits, a discussion on the systems of their social media and how the SAF can respond to curb this propaganda machine. The dissertation will eventually lead to the conclusion that the greatest challenge faced by the SAF is that from the terrorists groups based around Singapore, and to reduce the strengths of these terror groups, is to cut off the supply of finance and recruits. The author believes that without sufficient financing and manpower, operations become more difficult to organise and conduct, eventually dissuading them from further actions and to force IS to look elsewhere.

Terrorism in South East Asia

To understand the severity of the matter, it is important to first understand how massive their scale of operations are and how they developed. Since 2015, ISIS has declared that they would establish a wilayat, a ‘caliphate’ in South East Asia. Katibah Nusantara, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is leading this charge. The concept of a ‘caliphate’ in Southeast Asia has brought likeminded terror groups together to set up training camps in Sulawesi, Aceh and in the Southern Philippines (). In November 2015, Malaysian police confirmed reports that the Abu Sayyaf Group had hosted a summit to band the ISIS, Abu Sayyaf Group, and the Moro National Liberation Front so as to consolidate and begin a resistance against the Malaysian state. The police also stated that the summit had made concrete plans to recruit more recruits and to train suicide bombers (). It was revealed that suicide bombers had been stationed near Kuala Lumpur and in Sabah (Straits Times 2015). United, and equipped with an understanding of the local and regional context, ISIS has embedded itself within Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia with the regional militant groups to set up a nest to train, plot and launch their operations onto the wider Southeast Asian region.

The link between Abu Sayyaf Group and ISIS has grown stronger as Abu Sayyaf Group has proven itself capable of recruiting, training, and initiating operations in Malaysia and the Philippines. In February 2016, ISIS’ al-Furat media released a video acknowledging Abu Sayyaf Group’s pledge of allegiance (Manila Standard 2016). With ISIS’ endorsement, the increasing frequency of hostage-taking for financing, and the April 2016 conflict in Basilan, an insular province in the southern Philippines, which claimed the lives of 18 Filipino soldiers, Abu Sayyaf Group has continued to escalate its criminal and terrorist operations. As ties between ISIS and Abu Sayyaf Group grow tighter, Abu Sayyaf Group poses an even greater threat, one that will intensify if Abu Sayyaf Group allies with and spreads ISIS’ support to currently non-ISISaffiliated terrorist networks in Southeast Asia. (abu Sayyaf axis)

From 2002 to 2008, Terror operations in South East Asia accounted for 575 deaths (CNA). In 2017 alone, groups that forged ties with IS committed 348 terror acts, resulting in 292 deaths (CNA). A clear indication that the groups are growing in ability and also audacity. ISIS’ first claimed attack on Jakarta, which occurred in January 2016, underscore the magnitude of the threat posed by ISIS to Southeast Asian countries. The perpetrators revealed that Malaysian extremists received money and weapons from Bahrun Naim, the leader of Katibah Nusantara, and plans to attack Kuala Lumpur were underway (Sin Chew 2016). Kidnapping attempts by ASG intensified even more after the Jakarta attacks. Three major incidents took place within a three-week period. In March 2016, ASG captured 10 Indonesian crew members; in April 2016, the group took four men from Sarawak hostage and created a Facebook page to announce their capture; a week later, there was a third kidnapping on the high seas (The Star 2016). These incidents prompted officials to close the Sabah-Philippines border and introduce strict maritime measures (Sabahanews 2016). ASG’s recent actions in Sabah emphasise the extent of ISIS’ traction there.

SAF’s Response: Stepping up Counter-Terrorism

We have assessed, as we said, the rising threat of terrorism, and in the next few months, the SAF will re-double our efforts to gear up for counter-terrorism.

First, studying what happened in Paris, Jakarta and Brussels, the SAF will enhanced its incident response. In this, working with the Home Team closely and seamlessly is crucial if we are to bring to bear the full strength of our security capabilities. The SAF is working closely to share intelligence and develop joint operational command systems. We are conducting more joint exercises together. Last year, Exercise High Crest was conducted to validate our Whole-of-Government response to simultaneous maritime security threats. And in that exercise, various agencies, including the SAF, SPF, SCDF, ICA, MPA, worked together to intercept a terrorist speedboat, storm a hijacked merchant vessel, and deal with the aftermath.

Second, more SAF units will be trained to take on a wider range of security tasks. We do not assume, that attacks will only be carried out by lone-wolves or wolf packs – smaller groups, like those which occurred in Jakarta. We must be able to deal with orchestrated attacks, like those which occurred in Paris and Brussels, where airports, MRT stations, shopping malls and town centres are targeted simultaneously. And to deal with these scenarios, more SAF units will be trained to conduct deterrence patrols, even in populous areas. These units will be better equipped to perform their tasks. So for example, we commissioned last year, the Peacekeeper Protected Response Vehicle, which will give our responders greater mobility, protection, and more precise firepower to deal decisively with threats.

However, such exercises and actions shows that at best, the SAF can only respond to the overt threats and those that have already occurred. By the time they are activated, the crisis would be largely over and the desired effects by the Trror groups would have already been in place.

Financing Terrorism

ISIS controls territories and oil fields in Iraq and Syria from which they can draw resources to fund tens of thousands of fighters and further its goals. ISIS even uses drones for its operations, like a military. They can orchestrate and coordinate attacks far away, as they did in Paris, Brussels or even near us, Jakarta. Their tentacles can reach far. Just this week, the Malaysian Police revealed that ISIS had allocated around S$100,000 to Katibah Nusantara. It is a Malay Archipelago Combat Unit, and ISIS had given them S$100,000 to finance terrorist attacks and bombings in Southeast Asia

In the Southeast Asia region, there are three modalities of terrorist financing: criminal activities, use of charities and partaking in legal commercial activities. The first activity is the focus of this study.6 Increasingly too, terrorist groups have justified the use of crime as being part of a legitimate act as long as it hurts the ‘enemy’. The Islamic State (IS), which used former criminals as jihadists, has described their criminal acts as part of jihad.8 In the same vein, Indonesian jihadists and members belonging to both the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the IS have been involved in bank robberies as part of fa’i [acquisition of an enemy’s wealth]. For example, seven billion Indonesian Rupiah was lost through cybercrime.9

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The crime-terror nexus is the strongest and most explicit in Southern Philippines, with ASG being heavily involved in related activities. For ASG, criminal activities are a major source of funding that permit the group to advance its organisational, ideological and political position, especially its overall goal of establishing an Islamic state in Southern Philippines. This partly explains its long history of being involved in the crime-terror nexus. The ASG, in collusion with various organised crime groups, has frequently resorted to KFR even though it is also involved in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, extortion and assassinations. In the first six months of 2016, the group reportedly received US$7.3 million in ransom from kidnapping.10 This led one observer to note that ‘cash, not caliphate’ was ASG’s key motif force.11 Westerners and foreigners were targeted heavily due to the perceived financial gains and publicity. As such, the ASG has fused both terrorism and crime in order to optimise its organisational relevance, longevity and importance in the Mindanao region.

SAF’s response to Maritime Terrorism and Trafficking

While the number of piracy and armed robbery incidents along the Strait of Malacca fell from 20 in 2007 to eight so far this year, “more work needs to be done” on terrorism threats.

“Collectively, we need to step up our intelligence efforts as the centre of gravity of global terrorism shifts away from the Middle East and moves to other regions of the world, including this region, which have been susceptible to radical ideologies,” Dr Ng added.

One solution is the Republic of Singapore Navy’s Information Fusion Centre, which hosts liaison officers from all over the world and strengthens maritime security through information sharing. Last year, the centre tracked a fishing boat in the region for three months and worked with the Indonesian Navy to facilitate its capture in the waters off Batam. The boat was found to contain one tonne of crystal methamphetamine hidden in rice sacks (CNA).

Terrorist Recruitment

Threat levels for Singapore from ISIS are higher than those posed by Al-Qaeda (AQ) and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) when they were active. The number of what Al-Qaeda was able to attract – both sympathisers and operatives – in the last 10 years, ISIS has already exceeded the number in the last three years. ISIS operatives and sympathisers, especially what we call ‘clean skins’ – those with no prior criminal record – can travel and smuggle components of arms and explosives.

That’s why important to go after recruitment.

ISIS’s Amaq news agency has not only launched video and audio news but guides and training, as well. These are disseminated across a broad range of sites making suppression and remediation complicated. As of 2016, ISIS has been leveraging a complex content development and dissemination system coupled with online recruitment. The model below illustrates that Amaq and Al-Hayat – the most reported on ISIS news agencies, in the west, are only a small part of a vast network of online propaganda and influencing and recruitment efforts. As these networks are well entrenched across many conflict regions in EMEA (Europe-Middle East-Africa), while battlefronts change, the online presence persists.

ISIS operatives and sympathisers have already formed networks in our region. In the past year, close to a thousand people from Southeast Asia have travelled to Iraq and Syria to join the fight, including Singaporeans. And more have been radicalised without even travelling to the Middle East. Most recently, four Singaporeans were prevented from joining the armed conflicts in the Middle East. Returning fighters will bring back their extremist ideology, share their experience in weapons, explosives and actual fighting. In addition, we know that they have linked up with existing cells, like the JI offshoot, Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, and Abu Sayyaf. (Tackling Misinformation)

Preventing radicalisation, recruitment and recidivism

In light of the extensive use of modern communication technologies by terrorists, individuals vulnerable to extremist discourse tend to radicalise or self-radicalise online.35 Any strategy aimed at disrupting radicalisation, recruitment and recidivism by former offenders must therefore include an online aspect. But states have so far experienced difficulty in dealing with online propaganda.36

The Internet knows no boundaries and because IS has treated Southeast Asian Muslims as a homogenous target-demographic, ASEAN should occupy a substantial position in regional efforts to counter extremist ideology online. According to Greer and Watson, ASEAN should encourage, subsidise and implement, “local, data-driven restorative approaches to prevent and rehabilitate radicalisation.”

ASEAN has an advantage when it comes to countering extremism as its member states have considerable expertise especially with regards to rehabilitation and counterpropaganda. Some of ASEAN’s member states have been hailed globally for pioneering many of the most successful initiatives in the world especially with regard to rehabilitation and counter-propaganda. In particular, two examples of such innovative approaches should be mentioned.

Singapore’s Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG), which actively counters radicals’ misperceptions and instrumentalisation of Islam through a grassroots approach. This includes a counselling centre, a smartphone app, publications by religious scholars, conferences and community outreach events.38 Important to note that despite such efforts, The gov continue to catch people who are self radicalized. Can share the materials and how they do it to saf so that they can identify potential people with such tendencies. Also to each and spread the learning so everyone knows how to move away from it.

With the SAF dealing with 18-20 year NSFs is in a position where it is extremely dangerous as singaproea male are educated to fight. But the 2 years conscription also has advantages. The two years spent can also be leveraged to educate the people on the effects of terrorism. While not necessary to be done overtly for fear of having counter effects, the syllabus fo education through NE programs can help to dissuade people from turngin to terrorism. (ASEAN Terror weaknesses)

More can be done to deal with this.

Conclusion

To discuss means of cutting off financing and recruitment for terrorists in South East Asia, this dissertation will first discuss the recent actions so as to better understand their current scale of operations as well as the SAF’s plans to strengthen her counter terrorism capabilities. Following that, the dissertation will explore the terror finance mechanisms and the success of SAF’s response to their efforts. Lastly, the IS’s propaganda machine played a big part in attracting recruits, a discussion on the systems of their social media and how the SAF can respond to curb this propaganda machine. The dissertation will eventually lead to the conclusion that the greatest challenge faced by the SAF is that from the terrorists groups based around Singapore, and to reduce the strengths of these terror groups, is to cut off the supply of finance and recruits. The author believes that without sufficient financing and manpower, operations become more difficult to organise and conduct, eventually dissuading them from further actions and to force IS to look elsewhere.

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ISIS: Means Of Cutting Off Financing And Recruitment For Terrorists In South East Asia. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/isis-means-of-cutting-off-financing-and-recruitment-for-terrorists-in-south-east-asia/
“ISIS: Means Of Cutting Off Financing And Recruitment For Terrorists In South East Asia.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/isis-means-of-cutting-off-financing-and-recruitment-for-terrorists-in-south-east-asia/
ISIS: Means Of Cutting Off Financing And Recruitment For Terrorists In South East Asia. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/isis-means-of-cutting-off-financing-and-recruitment-for-terrorists-in-south-east-asia/> [Accessed 5 Dec. 2022].
ISIS: Means Of Cutting Off Financing And Recruitment For Terrorists In South East Asia [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2022 Dec 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/isis-means-of-cutting-off-financing-and-recruitment-for-terrorists-in-south-east-asia/
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