Singapore has been identified by supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group as part of its “East Asia wilayah” or state, a move that analysts say could embolden foreign fighters to carry out attacks here.
The Republic was among the countries or territories singled out on social media as part of the wilayah – a development flagged by senior analyst Jasminder Singh in a paper published by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies last week. The others are Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, southern Thailand, Myanmar and Japan.
“For foreign fighters coming into the region, this gives them an idea of what they will be in for, and what the targets are,” Mr Singh told The Straits Times yesterday.
He had noticed “chatter on social media” this month singling out specific countries as part of the wilayah, which could be the first time this has been done.
Other security analysts say this could embolden self-radicalised individuals to carry out attacks here, if they are unable to travel to the Middle East to fight.
The development comes as the terrorism threat facing Singapore is at the highest level in recent years, and the country sees a steady trickle of self-radicalised individuals.
Experts had warned last year that ISIS would want to create a wilayah, or state, in South-east Asia as it loses territory in the Middle East.
Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, noted that the exact territorial boundaries of the wilayah in East Asia are unconfirmed, as ISIS has not made an official declaration.
But he added that it would probably include parts of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
Dr Gunaratna said: “The growth of the ISIS threat in Singapore’s immediate neighbourhood presents a threat to security and stability here.”
In his paper, Mr Singh had discussed the security implications of the ongoing Marawi City siege in Mindanao, where Philippine forces are fighting to retake the city from ISIS-affiliated militants. The attacks there could “motivate other groups” in the region to carry out similar strikes in the region, he wrote.
Mr Remy Mahzam, associate research fellow at the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, said an indication of the boundaries of a future wilayah could prompt self- radicalised individuals who face difficulty in travelling to Syria to carry out attacks in the region instead.