MANILA, Philippines -- Southeast Asian nations will meet with the U.S. and seven other countries in January on fighting religious radicalism amid increased Islamic State group activity and recruitment in the region.
Southeast Asia is fertile ground for recruitment, with groups like Indonesia's Jemaa Islamiyah and the Philippines' Abu Sayyaf and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters already pledging allegiance to ISIS, the Guardian said, in August. And the region's many poor Muslims may be easy targets for groups looking to recruit and indoctrinate.
"Once the Islamic State takes root in Southeast Asia, there will be no cost-effective way to stop the insidious growth from spilling over into neighboring regions," Ron Wahid, chairman of Arcanum Global, a strategic advisory firm, said Wednesday, in The Hill.
Malaysia Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi disclosed the plan last week after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) met Oct. 1 to discuss radicalization and violent extremism, The Diplomat, a news and commentary website on Asia Pacific affairs, reported.
The Oct. 1 meeting of the 10-nation group agreed to strengthen programs to deradicalize and rehabilitate locals, and analyze the root causes for the spread of extremism in Southeast Asia and boost community-police relations, The Diplomat reported.
ISIS formed a unit, Katibah Nusantara, as early as last year, targeting Muslims and other Southeast Asians to fight in Iraq and Syria. The recruits, it's feared, could launch attacks in the region when they return.
Aside from the U.S., ASEAN is inviting its other official partners -- including China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand and Russia -- to the January meeting in Kuala Lumpur, The Diplomat reported.