The third quarter of Terrorism Watch 2022 examines the latest events and developments in terror-related incidents in Southeast Asia and key incidents worldwide from July to September 2022. There has been a shift in the dynamics of terrorism, with it becoming more concentrated in regions and countries suffering from political instability and conflict. For example, the security situation in Afghanistan is rapidly deteriorating with more attacks conducted by the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), a Daesh affiliate in South Asia.
On the other hand, the Abu Sayaf Group (ASG), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and their affiliates continue to engage in illegal activities to sustain their agenda and terror operations, despite the growing acceptance of the Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) effort to dismantle terrorist networks in the Southern Philippines. Some reports also indicate that local supporters of Daesh have been sharing and uploading information about the militant training of local terrorist groups in order to promote jihad and solicit assistance from local Filipinos and FTFs from Indonesia.
Indonesia is consistently devoted to anti-terrorism efforts. At the national level, Indonesia employs a comprehensive anti-terrorism policy that mixes hard and soft approaches. Despite these attempts, local radicals continue to support terrorist networks online in a covert manner, with some of them getting funding from local sympathisers. From January 2022 to September 2022, no terrorists were apprehended in Malaysia, and the terrorism situation remained moderate. Local authorities will continue to monitor and strengthen surveillance to ensure terrorist networks in Malaysia pose no threat.
Despite a rise in terrorist activities in 2022, the impact of terrorism continues to decline. Afghanistan has the highest rate of terrorist assaults, with Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) attacks against civilians and mosques occurring continuously for the past three months. Then followed the African continent, specifically Somalia, with notable terrorist strikes by the Al Shabaab organisation. Recent observations indicate that terrorist organisations will continue to exploit societal disintegration and weak governance to acquire power through violence. They will boost their propaganda and disseminate radical ideologies via cyberspace. Global jihadist organisations are possibly the largest and most persistent transnational menace, as well as a threat in their home countries. They are able to exploit vast areas of ungoverned or poorly governed territory in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, thanks to a twisted jihad ideology that promises a millenarian future through strong organisational structures and the ability to exploit vast areas of ungoverned or poorly governed territory in these regions.
The following are the highlights of terrorism-related occurrences around the world:
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) detained 300 Daesh fighters on 19 September 22 during an Operation Security and Humanity operation in Al-Hol, Northeast Syria. The organisation released eight women after holding them captive for months. Following allegations of violence and the presence of Daesh sleeper cells in the Al-Hol camp, the SDF launched an offensive on 25 August 22, which lasted until 17 September 22.
Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second leader of Al Qaeda, was killed by an American drone strike at his home in Kabul, Afghanistan on 31 July 22, leaving behind his children and wife, who survived the attack. His killing may not affect the actions of Al Qaeda branches, but it will undermine the central organisation based in Afghanistan, as its commanders and other high-ranking individuals have been.
In addition, the ISKP has diversified its attacks by targeting prominent individuals, including clergy and foreign embassies. Sheikh Rahimullah Haqqani, a supporter of the Taliban, was killed on 11 August 22 by a suicide bombing on a religious school in Kabul, Afghanistan. Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli was assassinated on 22 August 22 by a suicide bomber at the Siddiquiya Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan. Mujibur Rahman was assassinated by a third ISKP suicide strike on 22 September 22 at the Guzargah Mosque in Herat, Afghanistan on 5 September 22.
On 5 September 22, two Russian embassy staffs in Kabul were among six people killed when a suicide bomber detonated explosives near the entrance of the Russian embassy. The blast injured at least 10 others. ISKP claimed to be responsible for the attack, furious about diplomatic ties between Russia and Afghanistan.
In July 2022, Bangladeshi police arrested three ARSA members at a Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. One of them was a commander. Three of them were identified as Abu Bakkar, Syedul Amin, and Nur Mohammad. Abu Bakkar, who acted as a camp leader for ARSA and used aliases to avoid arrest in the past. He was also allegedly involved in killing six Rohingya in October 2021. Syedul Amin worked as a gun runner, while Mohammad was chairman of ARSA’s fatwa committee. Amin had undertaken weapons training in Myanmar for six months.
On 17 July 22, Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for a VBIED attack at Nur-Doob Hotel in Jowhar, Somalia. At least two were killed and more than 15 others were wounded in the attack. Meanwhile, on 19 August 22, the group launched two car bomb attacks targeting Hotel Hayat in Mogadishu, Somalia. The attacks caused 33 deaths and 100 people injured at the scene
Terrorism Trends in Southeast Asia
The terrorism-related issues involving the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are as follows:
On 30 July 22, about 100 former members of ASG surrendered to the Philippine government and underwent the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program (ECLIP) designed for the former extremist members. The former ASG members and supporters will be integrated back into their communities with their families. They also received support and financial benefits for their livelihood, including food packs worth P5,000 each and monetary assistance.
The terrorism-related issues involving Maute are as follows:
On 30 August 22, two combatants of the Maute group surrendered to the Iligan City Police Office (ICPO). They are believed to be remnants of Dawlah Islamiyah, once headed by the Maute brothers. The two surrendered a .45 caliber firearm, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, and ammunition.
The terrorism-related issues involving Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) as follows:
On 30 August 22, the Philippines National Police (PNP) claimed the BIFF group for the murders of Lieutenant Reynaldo Samson, the police chief of Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province, and his assistant. A small group of BIFF led by Abdulnasser Sabtulah Guianid and Commander Boy Jacket was responsible for the attack. Other members were Sala Tunda, Johari Abdulbasser Guinaid, Phepe Saptulah, Abdulrah Sapal, and Bobot Kamsa. The outfit is known as the BIFF Karialan faction. The police are still searching for these offenders in Maguindanao to prevent them from murdering other PNP officers.
A media organisation associated with the Islamic State’s East Asia Province (ISEAP) released a video in July 2022 showing footage of terrorists engaging in physical training and gunfights. The East Asian Knights (EAK) distributed the 6-minute video entitled “Believer Jihad in East Asia” via their Hoop Messenger account.
On 14 July 22, there were selfies circulated on Daesh social media posted by Daesh supporters. The selfies were believed to be from the Southern Philippines, where terrorist groups such as ASG, BIFF, and ISIS East Asia Province (ISEA) have emerged from. Such photos were intended to generate support for jihad locally. Since 2021, there has been a rise in the number of terrorists in the Philippines who post selfies.
On 25 July 22, anti-terror squad Densus 88 arrested 17 suspected terrorists in North Sumatra and Riau. There were the members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and Jamaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD). They were detained for being involved in weapons training, fund-raising, and aiding a suicide bombing at a police station in Medan in 2019.
In August 2022, a member of JI and a bomb maker, Umar Patek, was said to be released early this year after the latest reduction in his sentencing. He was sentenced to a 20-year jail term by an Indonesian court in 2012 after he was found guilty of mixing bombs that caused the 2002 Bali bombings. During the Indonesian Independence Day, Patek received a 5 month reduction for good behaviour and could walk free from Porong Prison in East Java province if he gets parole.
Also, in August 2022, Indonesian Daesh supporters celebrated the death of renowned Taliban preacher Rahimullah Haqqani by the ISKP in Afghanistan, praising the attack and its perpetrator while pledging to continue battling Daesh’s enemies. Facebook users expressed their joy over the operation and death. Others referred to the assailant as a martyr and prayed that God would accept his sacrifice. Share News OK (SNO), a Daesh-aligned media organisation that actively promotes Daesh propaganda, published a banner commemorating what Daesh fans referred to as a martyrdom action.
On 22 August 22, an Indonesian pro-Daesh media group continued to print posters carrying incitements to engage in armed jihad and commit suicide attacks, in addition to posters containing broad Islamic teachings. The media known as “Milisi Tauhid” uploaded jihadist propaganda images and films to a Facebook page that was apparently formed and enabled on 7 June 22. The messages included incitements to engage in violent jihad, suggestions for women to cover their bodies and adopt key roles in their children’s education, pleas to avoid polytheistic activities, and instructions for actions during Dhu al-Hijjah.
An Indonesian charity that has been raising money to help the families of jihadi fighters who are in jail or who have died has created a new unit to spread the word about its good works. Since March 2022, the Muhzatul Ummah charity has conducted its fundraising activities through a new entity named Al-Matsaali. The charity work of the new group is the same as that of Muhzatul Ummah. Its main goal is to raise money for wives, children, and convicted jihadists. The donations are given out in many different ways, such as cash, daily supplies, school and medical supplies, and more.
What Can Be Expected
Daesh-affiliated groups such as the ASG and BIFF, who coordinate with local terrorist groups to carry out terror attacks, continue to engage in terrorist activities. To attain a minimum level of credible deterrence in accordance with the FMO strategy, the AFP will continue to expand and improve its defence capabilities. The government of the Philippines made the National Action Plan on Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (NAP-PCVE) to deal with the growing radicalisation in the country. The plan calls for addressing the causes of extremism in places where it tends to grow, such as certain neighborhoods, schools, prisons, and social media. The ECLIP program is part of the effort to help former terrorists reintegrate back into society, reconnect with their families, and begin new, regular lives.
Indonesia is currently totally committed to deradicalization and counter radicalisation initiatives. The National Counterterrorism Center has set up the Deradicalization Blueprint and a Deradicalization Center for terrorist prisoners. In accordance with the Blueprint, deradicalisation programmes involve rehabilitation, reintegration, and re-education for terrorist inmates by empowering religious leaders and psychologists to offer counter-narratives. Despite the fact that the BNPT and Densus 88 have been successful in arresting and demobilising terrorist networks throughout the country, the effort still faces obstacles. These include a lack of capacity to respond to rapid technological and ideological improvements, which have led to changes in the recruitment patterns and narratives employed by terrorist organisations, the majority of which recruit over the internet. In addition, the current anti-terrorism legislation has not been able to control the influx of Syrian deportees or the use of encrypted social media and programmes that spread radical ideologies.
Malaysia’s terrorism threat remained at a moderate level. Even though there are no terrorism-related issues in Malaysia, the presence of Malaysians at the Al-Hol camp in Syria remains a big concern for the country. But law enforcement officials are also keeping a close eye on ISKP’s plans to make Afghanistan an Islamic Caliphate.
Extremists in the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia continue to support Daesh, making it the preeminent terrorist organisation in these regions. Daesh supporters in Southeast Asia continued to translate Daesh material into local languages in order to radicalise susceptible communities in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesian. Even when there was no new propaganda propagating Southeast Asians to join ISKP or go to conflict zones, extremist networks still used social media to express their desire to join terror groups in Afghanistan or the Middle East.
In Southeast Asia, there have been no noteworthy terrorist events. With the addition of arrests in Indonesia and the Philippines, the terrorist threat level remains moderate. With the killing of prominent terrorists, including their leaders and commanders, law enforcement has substantially restricted terrorist networks’ activity. In addition, military operations, such as those in the southern Philippines and Indonesia, have made it more difficult for FTF to remain in these nations.
Even though there have been no terrorist attacks in Malaysia since January 2022, the country has kept an eye out for extremism and terrorism and has been ready for unplanned events that could put its security at risk.