The second quarter of Terrorism Watch 2022 examines the latest events and developments in terror-related incidents in Southeast Asia and key incidents worldwide from April to June 2022. Terrorism continues to be the primary asymmetrical concern. With the reopening of borders in numerous nations in 2022, the threat posed by foreign terrorist organisations is anticipated to intensify. This includes the movement of Daesh recruits to Afghanistan, which contributes to an increase in attacks in the country in an effort to demoralise the Taliban in order to undermine the regime’s ability to protect the Afghan people, primarily the minority groups.
Militant activity in the southern Philippines appears to have declined dramatically. Additional terrorists surrendered to the local authorities. Due to the decline in KFR activity, terrorist organisations such as Daulah Islamiyah (DI) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have resorted to extortion as a means to ensure their source of income. In Indonesia, the year 2022 may see a rise in the number of arrests of individuals accused of belonging to terrorist and extremist groups. Recent events have demonstrated that extremist organisations such as the Negara Islam Indonesia (NII) and Jemaah Khilafatul Muslimin have posed new challenges to the Indonesian government, as both organisations seek to persuade locals to support their ambition and vision to replace Pancasila ideology with Syariah Law. From January 2022 through June 2022, no arrests were made in Malaysia. Currently, the emergence of extreme Malay-language websites and chat groups that support Daesh is of special concern. This could also increase the likelihood and severity of self-radicalisation and lone-wolf terrorism.
The threat of terrorism has begun to take prominence in 2022. The drastic increase in numbers relating to extremism and terrorism shows how terrorists are adapting to new norms. The second quarter of the year significantly puts Afghanistan under the spotlight for many terror-related attacks. The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) has been responsible for the deaths and massacres in Afghanistan in 2022, and the group is becoming more dangerous as they increase attacks on minority groups and places of worship. Since its emergence in 2015, ISKP has viewed the Taliban as both its strategic and ideological rival. ISKP has repeatedly denounced the Taliban’s efforts to form an emirate which directly opposes ISKP’s objective of a global Caliphate in Khorasan province. With the Taliban eager to engage the international community to gain international recognition and future economic assistance, ISKP is likely to sabotage and exploit the opportunity, using it to lure extremist militants including foreign fighters from neighbouring Syria and Iraq, as well as from central Asia and Southeast Asia, to conduct more widespread terror attacks. Thus, the security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious.
On the other hand, in Europe and the United States of America, hate crimes and extremism have begun to attract media attention. Europe has been dealing with foreign extremists who are struggling to adapt to new cultures in the west. While the US is facing an ongoing debate on the constitutional rights of firearms possession and the rise of public shootings that have taken away many innocent lives lately.
The threat in Southeast Asia is gradually increasing. There are groups that depart themselves from ideologically-based activities to profit-orientated activities such as extortion. At the same time, the re-emergence of religious-nationalist groups to challenge the Indonesian national identity seems to be intensifying. The second quarter of 2022 will reveal a Malaysian who plays an important role in streaming Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTF) from this region to Afghanistan.
The following are the highlights of terrorism-related occurrences around the world:
On 16 June 2022, a senior Daesh leader and bomb-maker, Hani Ahmed al-Kurdi @ Wali of Raqqa, was captured in northern Syria. Al-Kurdi was a bomb-maker who could have become one of the terror group’s most influential leaders in Syria. The arrest of al-Kurdi would affect Daesh’s leadership crisis because many of the group’s potential leaders have been killed or captured in operations led by the US.
For the past three months, there have been a string of terrorist attacks perpetrated by the ISKP in the country. More than 50 casualties and 150 injuries were reported, where most of the victims were from the minority groups, particularly the Hazara-Shiite Muslims and one Sikh. The continuing attacks indicate the Taliban have done less in mitigating the threat of ISKP despite the fact that many ISKP members have been arrested. ISKP is trying to build up a momentum of insecurity to weaken the Taliban so that the regime will be seen as a failure in providing protection to the minorities. The series of terrorist attacks are as follows:
|19 April 2022||Explosions at the Abdul Rahim Shahid Secondary School||6||25|
|29 April 2022||Bomb attack at the Khalifa Aga Gul Jan Mosque||10||20|
|25 May 2022||Bomb attack at the Hazrat Zakaria Mosque||5||15|
|11 June 2022||Bomb blast on a minibus||4||–|
|18 June 2022||Sikh Temple||2||–|
|21 April 2022||Bomb attacks on the vehicles brought Taliban mechanics||4||18|
|22 April 2022||Bomb attack at the Khanaqa-e-Malawi Sikandar Mosque||33||43|
|17 June 2022||Bomb attack at the Alif Bardi Mosque||1||7|
|21 April 2022||Bomb attack at the Soh Dokan Mosque||12||50|
|25 May 2022||VBIED attack||9||–|
|20 June 2022||Vehicle Attack at the nearest bazaar||4||28|
On 26 May 2022, Turkey claimed that the local authorities had arrested Daesh’s leader, Abu Al-Hassan Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi, in Istanbul. He is the third leader of the group after the death of the second leader, Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi, in a raid in Idlib, Syria on 3 February 2022. Even though there was no official confirmation of this development, Daesh followers could possibly use it as an excuse to retaliate and intensify attacks on his behalf.
On 8 June 2022, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) threatened to carry out attacks in India in the backdrop of the controversial statements regarding the Prophet by two members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A statement purportedly by the AQIS has called for attacks in Delhi, Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. Despite this development, AQIS capabilities are assessed as still weakened due to its decreasing strength as a result of preemptive action by the Indian authorities against its members. Until now, AQIS has not conducted any terrorist attacks in India as compared to Pakistan and Bangladesh. The suicide threat is merely its propaganda and narratives to ensure its existence remains intact.
On 19 April 2022, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) armed group claimed responsibility for an explosion that killed three and injured 19 people at a market in the rural town of Iware, Taraba State in North Eastern Nigeria. The attack was believed to be due to the selling of alcohol in the market. Meanwhile, on 5 June 2022, the group was blamed for bombing and gun attacks at the St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, in southwestern Nigeria. The assault killed 40 churchgoers. These attacks have demonstrated that ISWAP has expanded its attacks elsewhere besides Borno State. The expansion is also caused by its rivalry with Boko Haram in Borno State, another dominant force in the state. Both groups, who were once allies, are now competing and battling for territorial supremacy in Northern Nigeria.
On 13 May 2022, five people were wounded after an assailant attacked them with a knife on a passenger train in Herzogentrath, Germany. The suspect, who was an Iraqi asylum seeker, was detained by police. The man was radicalised during his time living in a refugee shelter.
On 24 June 22, two people were killed and more than 20 were injured in a shooting incident in a gay bar in Oslo, Norway. The perpetrator was identified as Zaniar Matapour, from Iran. He was arrested immediately after the incident. Matapour arrived in Norway with his family from a Kurdish part of Iran in the 1990s. The authorities seized two weapons that belonged to him, including a handgun and an automatic weapon. The Norwegian security service called the incident an Islamist terror act.
Terrorism Trends in Southeast Asia
The terrorism-related issues involving the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are as follows:
a. On 30 May 22, the Philippine National Police (PNP) arrested four terrorist suspects for links with two bombings outside a fast food restaurant, Jollibee and at D’Biel Transportation in Barangay La Pieded. Both incidents occurred in Basilan. The AFP suspected these attacks were perpetrated by ASG.
The terrorism-related issues involving Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) are as follows:
a. On 10 May 2022, a 53-year-old with the name Omar bin Harun and a Malaysian passport was denied entry into Manila for terror links. The man who flew in from Kuala Lumpur to Manila was not only linked to Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping activities under the leader Radulan Sahiron but also served as a facilitator for Malaysian militant, Dr Mahmud Ahmad. His Filipino name is Airola @ Satar and he was listed under the Terrorism Screening Centre of the Federal Bureau of Investigations. He used a Malaysian passport to hide his real identity.
b. On 25 May 2022, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) exploded on a Yellow Bus Line bus in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, wounding three people. The attack was believed to have been conducted by the DI-Hassan Group. This group has been involved in extortion and was responsible for the previous bus attacks in Cotabato areas.
c. On 6 June 2022, an alleged spokesperson of the DI, identified as Abdulfatah Omar Alimuden @ Abu Huzaifah, was killed during the military operation in Maguindanao. He was also in charge of the financial transactions of the DI-Philippines to the Daesh group in Syria. His neutralisation is a big blow to DI on their capability to make more bombs.
The terrorism-related issues involving Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as follows:
a. On 1 April 2022, a Facebook account user identified as Abdullah K, who is suspected to be a Filipino Daesh supporter, released a 28-minute and 12-second video by one of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) leaders, Esmael Abdulmalik @ Abu Toraifee. The leader praised Daesh, pledged allegiance to Abu Al Hassan Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi (Daesh leader) and advocated suicide attacks in Mindanao.
The terrorism-related issue involving the Eastern Indonesia Mujahidin (MIT) is as follows:
a. On 16 May 2022, 24 followers of East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) were arrested in the republic. In all, 22 individuals were arrested in Central Sulawesi and another two were arrested in Bekasi, West Java and East Kalimantan. In the raid police seized a revolver, 10 air guns, an arrow, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and 26 machetes in the raid. These individuals supplied weapons and food to MIT militants in the jungle and have hidden information about them from the authorities.
Other terrorism-related issues are as follows:
a. Until April 2022, Detachment 88 arrested more than 15 suspected members of the homegrown militant network Indonesia Islamic State, or Negara Islam Indonesia (NII), during recent operations in West Sumatra and West Java. Besides recruiting youth and minors, they have regularly conducted paramilitary training and acquired weapons. The operations were launched to dismantle the movement as they were believed to be planning to overthrow the legitimate government and replace the national ideology of Pancasila with Syariah Law.
b. In May 2022, five Indonesian nationals had their assets frozen by the United States for allegedly financing Daesh militants and recruiting local teens to fight in Syria. Two of the suspects are in Indonesia, while the other three are at Camp Al-Hol in Syria. They played a key role in facilitating the travel of extremists to Syria and other areas where Daesh operates. They were identified as Dwi Dahlia Susanti, Rudi Heryadi, Ari Kardian, Muhammad Dandi Adhiguna and Dini Ramadhani. Two of them had been apprehended. The Indonesian authorities are also seeking help from Interpol to track down another three who have stayed overseas.
c. In June 2022, about 16 members of Jemaah Khilafatul Muslimin were arrested in Lampung, Brebes, Krawang and Cimahi. This included the supreme leader of the organisation, namely, Abdul Qadir Hasan Baraja. This arrest began when members of the organisation carried out a convoy wearing green-coloured clothes, distributing pamphlets and posters that read ‘Welcome to the Rise of the Islamic Caliphate’. The Jemaah Khilafatul Muslimin movement has 14,000 members spread across the country. The movement is promoting an ideology akin to that of banned Islamic organisations such as Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), which all seek to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Indonesia.
a. In April 2022, a 29-year-old Singaporean national, Radjev Lal Madan Lal, was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) after he became self-radicalised and planned to travel to conflict zones to undertake armed violence. Radjev’s path to radicalisation began in 2013 when he was introduced to the online sermons of Imran Hosein, a foreign radical preacher from Trinidad and Tobago. He was also susceptible to prophecies of the imminent “end of times” and the rise of the Black Flag Army (BFA). In 2014, Radjev planned his travel route to Syria to join Daesh and he also supported the Taliban. His detention is vital as this action signifies Singapore will take firm action against anyone who allegedly supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence.
b. In April, Mohamed Hassan bin Saynudin a senior member of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network, was detained under the ISA after being deported from Indonesia. In 2008, he was imprisoned in Indonesia for planning a terrorist attack. In 2001, Hassan was also planned a plot with another former JI member, Mas Selamat bin Kastari, to hijack an airplane from Bangkok, Thailand to crash into the Changi Airport Control Tower in retaliation against the OSA arrests of JI members. The incarceration of Mohamed Hassan could prevent his followers and JI members from launching terrorist attacks in Singapore.
In June 2022, the identity of Khairul Anuar (Abu Hamza Al-Malizi), a 28-year-old Malaysian Daesh fighter and deputy of the East Asia Mujahideen group led by Sayfullah, an Indonesian militant, was revealed. The East Asia group is based in Afghanistan. Khairul Anuar made his first appearance for the announcement of terrorist attacks in Malaysia and other ASEAN countries by the Japanese embassy stationed in Kuala Lumpur last year. He incited Daesh and East Asia Mujahideen adherents to commit suicide attacks against non-Muslims, namely the Chinese, Indians, and Jews. Prior to joining Daesh, Khairul Anuar was a member of Ajnad Al-Sham, a pro-Al Qaeda organisation in Syria.
What Can Be Expected
Terrorist activity in the Southern Philippines is declining but has not disappeared. Some terrorist groups are still staging smaller-scale attacks or planning retaliation against the security forces. With the appointment of Abu Al Hassan, Daesh’s new leader, terrorist groups such as BIFF streamlined their support to Daesh leadership for financial support from Daesh central.
The present mode of operation of terrorist organisations such as BIFF demonstrates that terrorists are changing from ideologically motivated terrorism to criminal activity. The military campaign in the terrorists’ stronghold compelled them to resort to extortion to ensure their preservation. The new shift implies that terrorists are also battling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Targets for rapid cash are likely to be established businesses.
In Indonesia, the emergence of particular movements like the NII and Khilafatul Muslimin led the authorities to closely monitor these groups. They are promoting Syariah law and the Caliphate to replace the state ideology, which is Pancasila. The direct challenge to the state gives an indication that terror-related arrests could increase in the coming months. Although these groups have yet to pose any kind of terrorist attack, the Indonesian government would remain vigilant as groups such as the Khilafatul Muslimin may potentially threaten Indonesia’s security in the long run. This is because such a group may become a risk to their nation if it fails to address the extremism, radicalism, and income disparity among their local community.
The threat level in Malaysia remains moderate, with the likelihood of an imminent attack. As for the current Malaysian foreign fighter in Afghanistan, he was motivated by the deceased characters like Ustaz Lotfi Ariffin (Ajnad Al-Sham) and Muhammad Wanndy Mohd Jedi (Daesh). Khairul Anuar also seems to be recruiting Muslims to join ISKP to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan. Other motivating factors that may drive Malaysians to join militant groups include the romanticization of jihad, moral and ideological considerations, and hatred towards the government.
The epicenter of terrorism in the second quarter of 2022 has shifted from the Middle East and North Africa to South Asia, especially Afghanistan, where there has been an increase in terrorist attacks recently. Groups like ISKP have been escalating attacks by targeting minority groups such as the Hazara-Shiite and Sikh to demoralise the Taliban. At the same time, the regime is not protecting the minority groups as well as it should.
Increasing arrests of suspected terrorists in Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia suggest that Southeast Asia’s terrorism situation remains moderate. There have been no significant terrorist attacks in the region over the past three months. Authorities must continue to monitor the dissemination of extremist narratives through cyberspace by radical preachers and terrorist members and supporters. Terrorists and radicals who support them may learn from one another and exchange the most effective strategies for achieving their aims, even if they do not attack.