Move fast to keep Daesh out of Southeast Asia

Daesh has been trying to grow its influence in the Southeast, and set up a base in the Philippines

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Published: Sun 4 Jun 2017, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Sun 4 Jun 2017, 2:00 AM

Details are still patchy. There is no confirmation as yet on the motive behind Friday's attack in a casino in Manila. We don't know if the gunman was simply a sore loser, a robber, or indeed a lone fighter inspired by the Daesh terrorist group. But by claiming 38 lives, and unleashing chaos as it did, the rampage has seriously inflicted as much damage as an act of terrorism could have. Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla has rejected Daesh's claim. He has said the attack "does not have the slightest signature of terrorism whatsoever... As in previous incidents, this group is prone to claim and admit every criminal incident and label it as its own, clearly indicative of its pure penchant for propaganda." Padilla could be right, who knows. Investigations are still ongoing. But the fact is this rampage has happened when Mindanao in the south of the Philippines is under martial law. Duterte has rightly waged a war in the region to contain the Maute and Abu Sayyef threat. It wants to weed out extremists from the country. Daesh has been trying to grow its influence in the Southeast, and set up a base in the Philippines.

The extremist group has long held various parts of Iraq and Syria hostage. As US-coalition forces reclaim the territories, the group is forced to look elsewhere in the world, and target vulnerable, especially economically impoverished Muslim population. Mindanao, and nearby places such as Visayas and Luzon, fit the bill right. The region is plagued with conflict. The Philippines needs international support in this battle against extremist forces. Malaysia and Indonesia are joining hands. The three countries will launch joint patrols in waters off Mindanao this month to counter threats from Daesh. According to officials, the joint sea patrols in the waters bordering the three nations would begin on June 19, with air patrols starting at a later date. That's a good start. But more needs to be done to prevent the scourge from spreading in Southeast Asia, and soon.

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