ISIS: Establishing a Foothold in Southeast Asia

To expand its influence in the region, ISIS is encouraging foreign fighters to travel between Southeast Asia and the Middle East, capitalizing on illicit networks, and focusing propaganda on recent attacks targeting local Muslim populations. In October 2017, users of a pro-ISIS Telegram channel discussed the possibility of ISIS establishing a new branch in Burma amid its losses in Iraq and Syria. 

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  • Security forces have arrested 45 foreign fighters in Malaysia since early 2017, including three ISIS commanders from Iraq. Additionally, in the last two years, Turkey deported over 400 Indonesian fighters attempting to join ISIS in Syria. 
  • Since 2014, ISIS has leveraged a Philippine-based facilitator to handle logistics for the group in Southeast Asia, including the movement of fighters and money from Syria to Indonesia to support attacks. With this assistance, ISIS has sent more than $1.5 million to fund operations in the Philippines, according to the country’s military officials.
  • In response to Burmese security forces targeting and killing the Rohingya Muslim minority, ISIS and pro-ISIS media platforms began producing propaganda in English, Arabic, and local languages calling for the support of the Rohingya Muslims. In November 2017, a pro-ISIS media group published an article stating, “… we, as Muslims, must perform our duties in supporting our people in [Burma], with all what we have, which includes providing them with money and weapons and mujahideen [fighters] and expertise.”

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at or 609-584-4000.