EDITORIAL - IS reaches Southeast Asia
(The Philippine Star) - January 15, 2016 - 9:00am

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombings in the Indonesian capital Jakarta the other day that left seven people dead. This brings to 15 the number of countries where IS has launched deadly attacks.

As with other horrific terrorist attacks, the bombers hit a soft target: a Starbucks outlet in Jakarta’s busy commercial district. It is the first major attack in Southeast Asia claimed by IS and should raise alerts across the region, particularly in the Philippines where foreign terrorists have long enjoyed safe haven.

Philippine security officials have said there is so far no IS-related threat detected, but a high state of vigilance must be maintained. Indonesian militants belonging to Jemaah Islamiyah or JI, the regional terror cell with loose links to al-Qaeda, have struck in Mindanao and Metro Manila.

Indonesian JI bomber Fathur Rahman al-Ghozi, harbored by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, was arrested and convicted for the deadly attacks on a Light Rail Transit coach and several other sites in Manila and Makati on Dec. 30, 2000 that left 22 people dead. JI and the Abu Sayyaf were tagged in the 2004 bombing of the SuperFerry 14 near the mouth of Manila Bay that killed at least 116 people.

Indonesia is no stranger to Islamist terrorism. The country has battled JI militants, who were tagged in the bombings in Bali in 2002 and 2005 that killed a total of 222 people, and the 2009 attack on the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta in which two suicide bombers killed seven people.

Nearly a year ago today, Philippine police Special Action Force commandos killed Malaysian JI terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Mamasapano, Maguindano. Combined forces of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters killed 44 of the SAF and prevented the commandos from taking the body of Marwan, who was wanted for the 2002 Bali bombing.

The killers of the SAF are still scot-free, and there’s the possibility that more terrorists are being harbored in this country. There is also a strong possibility that with IS gaining a foothold in Indonesia, it won’t be long before the group makes its presence felt in the Philippines. No country in the region can let down its guard.

ABU SAYYAF BANGSAMORO ISLAMIC FREEDOM FIGHTERS FATHUR RAHMAN ISLAMIC STATE JEMAAH ISLAMIYAH LIGHT RAIL TRANSIT MANILA AND MAKATI MANILA BAY MARRIOTT HOTEL MARWAN MINDANAO AND METRO MANILA
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