Quarterly Report: Terrorism Events And Developments In The Fourth Quarter of 2023

The fourth quarter of Terrorism Watch 2023 explores the most recent events and developments pertaining to terror-related incidents in Southeast Asia and significant incidents worldwide from October to December 2023.

Growing concern in European nations, specifically France and Belgium, as a result of the spillover effect from Israel’s attack on Palestine, which was orchestrated by terrorist organisations.

The apprehension of ARSA’s primary leader is thought to have considerably diminished the group’s terrorist operations in the Cox’s Bazar camp. However, it may also serve as a motivating factor for ARSA members to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly Malaysia, thereby heightening the potential for national security risks.

The subsequent advancement of the terrorist menace in Southeast Asia demonstrates the proactive actions undertaken by governments with significant terrorist activity, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, which have effectively diminished the terrorism danger in those countries.

There is an observable rise in political and religious extremism, particularly following GE 15 with some organisations employ social media manipulation to further their own interests.

In conclusion, the fourth quarter of 2023 sees an increase in the global and regional threat that terrorism poses. The threat perception has shifted to incorporate the dissemination of narratives in cyberspace, particularly on social media.

Global Trend

There are significant events in a number of countries around the world during the fourth quarter of 2023. The threat of terrorism at the global and regional levels has shown a significant increase, in addition to the latest trends in European and African countries. There is an increasing menace of terrorism, both on a local and worldwide scale, particularly in the aftermath of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Terrorist organisations, particularly Daesh, persist in utilising social media and chat rooms as very efficient means for disseminating their ideology. Respective agencies such as Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) need to carry out periodic monitoring of social media content as well as video applications such as YouTube that are capable of threatening national security and can be blocked from being accessed by Malaysians if necessary.

The following are the highlights of  terrorism-related occurrences around the world:


On 16 Oct 23, Bangladesh’s elite security force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has arrested the head of the killer squad of the Rohingya militant outfit, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), believed to be directly involved in two high-profile murders in recent years. in 2021. ARSA leader, Samiuddin was arrested during a raid in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Samiuddin was wanted for the murder of Mohibullah, the chairman of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights, in 2021 and the killing of a Bangladesh Air Force (BAF) officer on 14 Nov 2022.

On 10 Dec 23, RapidAction Battalion(RAB) has conducted numerous raids in Ashulia, Savar, Manikganj, Gazipur dan Mymensingh and arrested six operatives of Ansar al-Islam. Arrestees were identified as Abdur Razzak @ Ishak @ Saiba, 41, Shariful Islam @ Murad, 31, Rahman @ Usaiman, 27, Muhammad Zakaria @ Abar, 24, Al Amin @ Robin @ Samura, 24, dan Abu Jar Maruf, 18.  RAB personnel recovered a large number of books on extremism from their possession.

Since January of this year, Bangladeshi officials have detained 72 members of the terrorist group ARSA as part of a vigorous crackdown. They suspect that ARSA was responsible for the killings of BAF personnel. Given the ARSA’s involvement in acts of terrorism and crime within the camp, it is thought that the security operation successfully dismantled the ARSA network, namely in Cox’s Bazar. The violent actions carried out by ARSA have been widely regarded as a significant catalyst for the displacement of Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar. Consequently, surrounding nations have intensified their efforts to enhance border security measures in order to prevent the entry of Rohingya refugees into their respective territories. Simultaneously, a large-scale terrorist strike in Bangladesh was averted by the apprehension of individuals affiliated with the Ansar Al Islam Group. These individuals are believed to have completed military training and received bomb-making instruction in India, as well as training from Afghanistan. This group is said to be distributing several publications that promote extremism, the oppression of Muslims, as well as films and lectures, in an effort to gain adherents. The arrest of its members is likely to have a significant impact on the Ansar Al Islam group, as the bulk of those imprisoned hold key positions as finance officials, recruitment coordinators, and instructors for new recruits.


On 16 Oct 23, Belgian police have shot dead a man suspected of killing two Swedish nationals and injuring a third person in a gun attack condemned by the country’s leader as “terrorist madness”. The accused, a 45-year-old Tunisian national, died in hospital after being shot in the chest. The suspect’s death comes after a man who identified himself as a member of Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack in a video posted online. The threat alert in Brussels was raised to its top level of four, meaning a “threat is extremely serious”. It was previously at level two, indicating an average threat.

The occurrence of this terrorist assault, supported by the extremist organisation Daesh, is not unprecedented in Belgium. The most recent example was documented in November 2022, when a terrorist associated with the Daesh organisation lethally stabbed a Belgian police officer. This assault seems to specifically target individuals of Swedish nationality, maybe due to their perceived association with the burning of the Quran a few months before by an Iraqi refugee. The Israeli-Palestinian instability is regarded as a contributing element in this incident, since terrorist organisations utilise it as a pretext to carry out their activities. The aforementioned tendency demonstrates the importance of addressing the Israel-Palestine conflict in order to prevent the rise of Islamophobia as a prominent issue in Europe, which might potentially lead to acts of violence. Through the analysis of violent events in Europe, such as the killing of Samuel Paty in France on October 16th and the assault on the Notre-Dame de Nice church in France on October 29th, proponents of Daesh have clearly shown that there is a possibility for the persistence of the phenomenon and worldwide trend known as the village effect. Each incidence, fuelled by hostile feelings such as xenophobia and Islamophobia, prompts a group of people to initiate an assault. These occurrences will continue to occur as long as there are those who use religious sensitivity and racial prejudice for their own purposes.


On 3 Dec 23, at least eight people were killed and 26 others injured when terrorists opened fire on a passenger bus in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s Gilgit Baltistan region. The bus was travelling from Gilgit to Rawalpindi when terrorists opened indiscriminate fire at around 6.30 pm in Chilas. Two army soldiers, who were in the bus, were also among the dead and one personnel of the Special Protection Unit was injured in the attack.

On 12 Dec 23, at least 23 soldiers have been killed and dozens injured in Pakistan after militants attacked a police compound. The attack took place in the early hours when a vehicle containing explosives rammed into the building in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, near the Afghan border. A militant group affiliated to the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. The compound was being used as a base camp for the Pakistani army.

The frequency of terrorist strikes in Pakistan has increased in recent years. In August 2023, Pakistan had a higher number of terrorist attacks than in any month in the past nine years. Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the ceasefire between Pakistan’s security forces and the terrorist group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has ended. This has led to a rise in terrorist attacks targeting both civilians and security forces in the period leading up to the expected February 2024 elections in the country. This variable signifies that the TP is the predominant catalyst for the escalation of terrorist activities in Pakistan. A recently formed extremist group known as TJP, suspected to have joined forces with the TTP, poses an additional danger to Pakistan. Based on the evidence, TPJ has been implicated in several recent assaults aimed against prominent figures in the nation, resulting in the deaths of 12 Pakistani security personnel and the destruction of three aircraft. The operation is believed to have been orchestrated in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan, taking into account the terrorist group’s tactics in the region next to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Islamabad is anticipated to exert pressure on Kabul to promptly address the issue of terrorists and prevent the ongoing use of Afghan land for launching assaults against Pakistan. In the absence of cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the issue of border security between them is seen unsolvable, allowing terrorist organisations to use this situation to strategically plan and execute acts of terrorism in the region. Hence, the government urges France SF to enhance security measures nationwide and heighten vigilance in all public spaces, especially educational institutions.


On 14 Oct 23, a teacher has been killed and two other people critically injured in a stabbing at a school in Arras, northern France. The suspected attacker, who has been arrested, was on a watchlist of people known to be a security risk in connection with radical Islamism. Local media reported that he was a former pupil at the Gambetta-Carnot school. Due to this incident, France has raised its threat alert to the highest level.

Following Israel’s assault on Hamas, the French Special Forces have apprehended 12 radicals in neighbouring vicinity including educational institutions and places of worship, as a direct consequence of the strike. Due to the increasing anti-Semitic sentiment and the presence of the largest Muslim population in Western Europe and the third-largest Jewish population globally (after Israel and the US), it is anticipated that France will continue to enforce strict security measures, including the prohibition of pro-Palestinian protests. Evidence and surveillance suggest that school assaults are exceedingly rare in France.


On 3 Dec 23, The Somali National Army (SNA) killed 60 al-Shabab militants and wounded several others in a joint operation near Halgan town in central Somalia. The operation targeted al-Shabab militants and their commanders who were re-grouping to attack areas in central Somalia. The Somali government forces backed by the African Union Mission in Somalia drove al-Shabab out of Mogadishu in 2011, but the terrorist group is still capable of conducting attacks, targeting government installations, hotels, restaurants and public places.

On 10 Dec 23, six people were killed in an attack by the known-terrorist organisation, Al-Shabaab in Galgadud. One of them was known as Abdullahi Shamley, an influential leader of the local Macawisley militant group.

The ongoing military assault by Somalia’s Special Forces against the Al-Shabab terrorist group has effectively weakened the organisation, compelling them to abandon their base. Furthermore, the local population’s cooperation with the government in suppressing terrorist attacks by groups such as Al-Shabaab is attributed to the resolute leadership of Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who has declared a comprehensive war against the terrorist organisation. This has contributed to the government’s ability to successfully persuade the local population to support its endeavours. This alliance is expected to spearhead military operations against terrorist organisations and expedite the process of eradicating Al-Shabaab in the region. Nevertheless, certain regions have seen a deficiency in security oversight subsequent to the departure of the Somali Federal forces and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) from those areas.Al-Shabaab is exploiting the opportunity to launch attacks on local militants and civilians, especially in districts that were formerly their strongholds, while also trying to regain control of their land. The absence of security forces in the region, along with the limited resources and capabilities of local militants, has led to a poor perception of Somalia’s SF pullout. Terrorist operations are expected to continue until the government offers military assistance to supervise and control the situation in the region in response to Al-Shabaab strikes.


On 1 Oct 23, At least one person was killed and two others were injured in a bombing attack outside Turkiye’s Ministry of Home Affairs building in Ankara. Two attackers murdered a civilian and stole his vehicle in the country’s capital ahead of the opening of parliament. Two police officers reportedly received non-life-threatening. The ministry confirmed at least one of the two attackers is a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known as the PKK. The second attacker has yet to be identified.

On 11 Dec 23, Turkish security forces carried out air operations in northern Iraq, destroying 13 terror targets and neutralizing many senior terrorists. The operations were carried out in the Gara, Metina, Hakurk and Qandil regions to eliminate terrorist attacks against Türkiye and its security forces from northern Iraq by neutralizing members of the PKK terror group and other terrorist elements and to ensure border security in line with the self-defense rights.

It is commonly acknowledged that Turkiye, US and Europe define the PKK as a terrorist organisation comprised of Kurdish fanatics. The suicide assault took place shortly before the parliament resumed its activities after the summer recess, leading to allegations that the PKK had intentionally planned to target the parliament’s reopening and the ministry buildings. The Turkish government has undertaken many counterterrorism operations in recent years, aiming to eradicate the terrorist organisation both within its own borders and on a worldwide scale, including operations performed over the border into Syria. Turkiye has established many military outposts in Iraqi Kurdistan with the objective of neutralising the terrorist organisation. Furthermore, in order to ensure regional tranquilly and security, Turkey maintains strong connections with the Kurdish authorities in Iraq. Based on the data, the primary stronghold of the PKK terrorist organisation is located in Northern Iraq. From 2018 to June 2023, the Special Forces of Turkey carried out a minimum of 6,000 airstrikes predominantly targeting Kurdish regions in Syria and Iraq. Following the commencement of “Operation Claw-Lock” in April of the previous year, which aimed to combat the PKK terrorist organisation in the northern area of Iraq next to the Turkish border, the Turkish Special Forces have escalated their airstrikes on PKK terrorist units. This operation has effectively removed important terrorist targets by preemptive and well-coordinated measures, therefore also impairing the capabilities of the PKK group. To mitigate the risk of terrorism in Turkey, the Turkish Special Forces will continue to carry out Claw-Lock operations in the next months, in accordance with prevailing operational patterns.

Terrorism Trends in Southeast Asia


On 23 Oct 23, The Indonesian police’s counterterrorism squad, arrested nine people on suspicion of terrorism activities in three separate operations. Five suspects were arrested in South Sumatra, who had alleged ties with home-grown extremist group Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), which is linked to the Daesh terror group. A day later, DENSUS 88 officers arrested one suspect in West Kalimantan and three others in West Nusa Tenggara, who were affiliated with home-grown extremist group, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD), also linked to the Daesh group. JAD is responsible for a string of attacks in the country, including a suicide bombing at a cathedral in Makassar City on Sulawesi Island in March last year, and several suicide bombings at churches in East Java in 2018, which killed a dozen people. The group was declared an illegal organisation in 2018.

On 28 Oct 23,  Indonesian police has arrested at least 27 suspected militants believed to have links to banned extremist groups, in a nationwide crackdown as the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country gears up for elections in 2024. DENSUS 88 conducted the arrests on Friday in Jakarta, West Java and Central Sulawesi provinces. Most of the arrested are suspected of being members of a homegrown militant outfit affiliated with the Islamic State group known as Jemmaah Anshorut Daulah or JAD.

The utilisation of various propaganda techniques suggests a rise in the threat of terrorism in Indonesia. It is unsurprising considering Israel’s ongoing aggression towards the Palestinian population and its present preparations for the forthcoming presidential election, slated for February 2024. It is expected that terrorist organisations would continue to use these two tragedies to gain support and inspire lone wolf strikes in Indonesia.

The Philippines

On 3 Dec 23, at least four people were killed by the explosion, including three women, and 50 others were brought to two hospitals for treatment of mostly minor injuries. Philippine forces were on high alert during a Catholic mass in a university gymnasium in the south of the country, an attack the authorities called Islamist terrorism. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. The group wrote on Telegram that its members detonated a bomb in the gathering.

On 8 Dec, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) killed at least nine members of Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) in air and ground offensives carried out by the military. DI is the local and Arabic name for ISIS, the Middle Eastern terror group. DI had blamed the MILF for the military’s offensives against the Islamic State-aligned group which started after a confirmation that the group was recruiting people in Sitio Wata in Pagalungan.

The elimination of eleven suspected terrorists in a special forces operation that took place in December in the town of Datu Hoffer in the southern province of Maguindanao is believed to be connected to the bombing incident. The deceased individuals were members of the Maute terrorist organisation, a branch of the DI, which maintains connections with Daesh. The Philippine government continues to reap advantages from the Focused Military Operation (FMO) implemented by its own administration. The aggressive effort conducted to eliminate the DI network, which remains a security risk in Maguindanao, is considered a crucial measure to prevent the DI from retaliating against the Philippines forces, as they did in previous terrorist attacks. This incident is expected to greatly impact the DI organisation, since they are seeing a decline in supporters and local residents. However, it is expected that the Philippine security forces would implement stricter safety measures in order to prevent future bombings of innocent sites.


The national threat on terrorism is currently moderate. Since 2013, there have been 562 arrests in the nation of people affiliated with terrorist groups and militant networks, comprising 196 foreigners and 366 locals.

On 1 Nov, The Eastern Sabah Security Command (ESSCOM) will release their latest list of 13 individuals wanted by authorities for links to militant activities. A study is underway and both the police’s Special Branch and ESSCOM play a role in monitoring the movements of those on the list. Most of the individuals on the list were now outside the Eastern Sabah Safety Zone (ESS Zone).

On 4 Dec 23, a key Abu Sayyaf bomb maker, who was on the Eastern Sabah Security Command’s (ESSCOM) wanted list and linked to several kidnap cases in Sabah waters, was killed by Philippine security forces. The notorious Abu Sayyaf extremist, Mundi Sawadjaan, was also behind the 2020 twin suicide blasts on Jolo island in southwest Philippines. He was shot dead during a firefight in Basilan province.

On 28 Nov, the police arrested an individual who offered RM5 million for a death threat on the Prime Minister, YAB Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim. The offer was made by the 34-year-old via his personal account @jaiadani89 on the TikTok social page. the case was being investigated under Section 507 Penal Code and Section 233 Communication and Multimedia Act 1998. Two days later, he has been granted police bail as the investigation against him has been completed.

ESSCOM has apprehended five individuals in Sabah this year suspected of involvement in terrorist activities. The absence of kidnappings since January 2020 indicates a reduction in terrorist threats and cross-border crimes. The offensive operation aimed at dismantling the DI network is crucial to prevent retaliation against the Philippines SF. ESSCOM needs to enhance operations, enforcement, and intelligence gathering to prevent future bombings. They must also ensure no individuals on the list have successfully entered the nation and take an active stance against terrorist recruitment or threats. ESSCOM must enhance operations, enforcement, and information collection to maintain security in the ESS Zone, preventing potential compromises and adopting a proactive stance against terrorist organizations enlisting locals with terrorist ideologies or generating threats in the East Coast region.

Mundi Sawagjaan’s death has impacted ASG, leading to a significant number of members surrendering and embracing the Enhanced – Comprehensive Local Integration Program (E-CLIP). With the group’s declining strength and lack of threat in Sulu, it is expected to be eradicated within a defined timeframe. Mundi Sawagjaan is suspected of orchestrating two major attacks in Jolo, Sulu. Furthermore, it is worth noting that the suspect’s nephew is Hatib Hajan Sawdjaan, who holds the position of commander for Daesh in the Philippines and is a prominent leader located in Sulu. In addition to his uncle, Sawadjaan’s family has numerous relatives who are affiliated with the KAS, including his cousin Arsibar Sawadjaan, brother Madsmar Sawadjaan, and brother Mannul Sawadjaan, all of whom perished in a prior conflict with the Philippine forces.

The prevalence of extremist tendencies in politics and religion is notably growing, particularly in the aftermath of GE 15. A multitude of individuals were apprehended for endeavouring to jeopardize the security and steadfastness of the nation as a result of their ideological and political zealotry. This type of danger arises from substantial ideological disputes, a dearth of contextual understanding on the matter, and a proclivity to accept internet information without conducting thorough study. Politicians and social media influencers are widely acknowledged to exert significant impact on society, particularly in relation to sensitive topics such as race, religion, and royalty. Most elected officials and politicians deliberately disseminate inaccurate information about their adversaries to further their own interests. This might potentially foster radical cognitive processes, an ideology characterized by animosity, and the subsequent formation of individuals with extreme tendencies. Videos and other items that have the capacity to jeopardize national unity should be prohibited, and individuals who disseminate such material should face legal consequences to increase public consciousness. The current legal approach is essential due to the potential of religious and racial concerns to jeopardize the peace and security of the country if left unaddressed.


Terrorism incidents at the global and regional level still show a significant increase for the period of the Fourth Quarter of 2023 in line with the opening of the international borders. Globally, Terrorism continues to pose a significant threat in countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Somalia, and Turkey due to ongoing instability. Additionally, there is a growing concern in European nations, specifically France and Belgium, as a result of the spillover effect from Israel’s attack on Palestine, which was orchestrated by terrorist organisations. The ongoing developments in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are exacerbating the threat of terrorism in Europe. It is imperative to implement stringent measures to prevent Europe from succumbing to the repercussions of the global interconnectedness. Following any occurrence that incites a group of individuals to carry out an assault, organised expressions of xenophobia and Islamophobia, which are rooted in hatred, are frequently observed. Somalia, Nigeria, and Turkey are considered proactive and pre-emptive in addressing the threat of terrorism during the fourth quarter of this year. With the help of ATMIS, security forces have successfully regained control over a substantial part of the land that was previously under the control of Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Nevertheless, should ATMIS reduce its military personnel by 3,000 by the conclusion of this year, Somalia would inevitably face specific difficulties. There is an anticipation of an increase in terrorist attacks in Somalia due to the aggressive targeting by Al-Shabaab in places with inadequate protection. The apprehension of ARSA’s primary leader is thought to have considerably diminished the group’s terrorist operations in the Cox’s Bazar camp. However, it may also serve as a motivating factor for ARSA members to seek refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly Malaysia, thereby heightening the potential for national security risks.

The subsequent advancement of the terrorist menace in Southeast Asia demonstrates the proactive actions undertaken by governments with significant terrorist activity, such as Indonesia and the Philippines, which have effectively diminished the terrorism danger in those countries. In addition, neighbouring countries in the area are continuously adopting non-confrontational strategies by implementing programmes such as the Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) programme, with the objective of averting the spread of violent extremism. An essential measure in averting untoward occurrences, particularly during Indonesia’s preparatory stage for the next Presidential Election, is the effective performance of Indonesian security forces in detecting and apprehending many alleged terrorist factions.Statistical data indicates an increase in terrorist incidents in Indonesia coinciding with the period of elections. Nevertheless, the ongoing situation in the southern Philippines illustrates that the Philippine government is utilising a combination of a stringent strategy, known as FMO, and a more lenient approach, referred to as E-CLIP, to counteract terrorist activities. Due to the use of these two strategies, several members of terrorist groups have managed to successfully disengage from their organisations and transition into a more promising existence. In order to thwart the efforts of terrorist organisations in the southern Philippines, it is expected that the Philippine Special Forces would increase its offensive operations using the Focused Military Operations strategy, as long as there are still some terrorists adhering to their ideology.

Individual updates must exhibit ESSCOM’s ongoing dedication to aiding in the detection of any indications related to terrorist groups’ operations in the Malaysian-Philippine regions, in accordance with the organization’s original objectives of protecting the security of ESSZONE community members. There is an observable rise in political and religious extremism, particularly following GE 15. Some organisations employ social media manipulation to further their own interests, therefore fostering extreme ideologies and a culture of animosity that ultimately leads to extremism. Under the existing legislation, both the individuals responsible for inciting and the dissemination of films are subject to arrest, while also being subjected to certain limitations. Immediate action must be taken to prohibit any content that has the potential to jeopardise national cohesion.

In a nutshell, there is an increasing menace of terrorism, both on a local and worldwide scale, particularly in the aftermath of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Terrorist organisations, particularly Daesh, persist in utilising social media and chat rooms as very efficient means for disseminating their ideology. Moreover, considering the increasing prevalence of solitary acts of violence perpetrated by adolescents in several countries, notably in Europe, the propagation of violent ideologies via online gaming platforms like Roblox remains a source of worry. In order to avoid the dissemination of unauthorised occurrences, it is imperative for MCMC and RMP to consistently monitor and curb the proliferation of any violent material within Malaysia. Video apps such as Facebook, Telegram, YouTube, and other chatroom platforms are more accessible for connecting with sympathisers. According to statistics, these platforms are responsible for 80 percent of the dissemination of terrorist ideology and propaganda.

In the Fourth Quarter, there has been a noticeable inclination towards utilising Bahasa Malaysia to disseminate ideals originating from Indonesia, while creating the perception that Malaysians endorse them. The problem is seen as the tactic employed by Daesh sympathisers to captivate the attention of Malaysians, who are believed to be growing more cognizant of the present situation of terrorism. The degree of possible terrorism threat in Southeast Asia is now assessed as moderate, or Code Blue, with a probable chance of terrorist strikes. Therefore, it is crucial to avoid disregarding the dissemination of Daesh propaganda in the region.

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