Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen has warned of the growing threat posed by extremist terror groups in Southeast Asia, insisting that they have become more organized and focused.
“Every year we meet, the situation and threat from extremist terrorism rises,” Ng said on Friday following a meeting in the US island state of Hawaii between Southeast Asia defense ministers and US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter that centered on the threat posed by the Daesh Takfiri terrorist network and similar groups.
“Compared to, say, a year or even two years ago, they’re more organized…they’re more networked, they’re more clear in their articulation of what they want to achieve,” Ng further stated in a press briefing as cited in a Reuters report.
The Singaporean minister then cited a recent scheme in which an Indonesian terror cell had conspired to wage attacks on hotels in Singapore’s Marina Bay area. The plot was thwarted by Indonesian authorities, he added.
“They have gone beyond networks to push the flow of funds, weapons. They are already plotting,” Ng emphasized.
According to the military official, more than 1,000 Southeast Asians have flocked to join foreign-sponsored Daesh terrorists in Iraq and Syria, where they have been waging a massive terror campaigns.
Ng also said Southeast Asian military chiefs believe that if Daesh were destroyed in its base in Iraq and Syria, that would essentially raise the risk to their region in the short-term, because seasoned Daesh terrorists would likely return to their home countries.
“They would decide to come back, some re-energized, some trained and the networks would still be existing,” Ng said.
Officials in the region have been on heightened alert since Daesh claimed responsibility for an attack in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in January during which eight people were killed, including four of the terrorists.
Meanwhile, security authorities stated in June that Southeast Asian militants who claim to be Daesh members said they had chosen one of the most wanted men in the Philippines to lead a regional branch of the terror group.