Indonesia’s military chief says Jakarta is looking to establish joint patrols with the Philippines and Malaysia for protection against Islamic State. It comes as the military said there are terrorists’ sleeper cells all over Indonesia.
The patrols will be protecting the Indonesian territorial waters.
Indonesia’s military chief, General Gatot Nurmantyo, said that he and Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu are set to discuss the matter next week with their counterparts from Malaysia and the Philippines.
The meeting will take place on Tarakan Island, Indonesia, and will include signing an agreement to step up joint patrols.
A number of Southeast Asian states are on high alert since an Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL)-affiliated group attempted to seize the city of Marawi in the southern Philippines.
On Tuesday, the Philippines’ military declared that the terrorists were still in control of 20 percent of the city.
Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Eduardo Año told the Manila Times that the three top terrorists of the Maute Group aimed at seizing Marawi on the first day of Ramadan, planning to kill “many” non-Muslims and create an Islamic caliphate. However, they failed, and the battles with local military have already left nearly 200 terrorists dead, according to the paper.
Nevertheless, the Indonesian military chief urged everyone to be careful and on guard.
“It's easy to jump from Marawi to Indonesia and we must all beware of sleeper cells being activated in Indonesia,” Nurmantyo told journalists in Jakarta, as cited by Reuters.
“If the Philippines wins, Indonesia would get a spill-over effect from the retreating militants, but if the Philippines loses, Mindanao [the island where Marawi is located] would be a strong regional ISIS base that threatens Indonesia among others,” another high-ranking serviceman, Army major general Ganip Warsito who monitors the areas closest to the Philippines’ border, told reporters, as cited by AP.
‘ISIS sleeper cells in almost all Indonesian provinces’
IS sleeper cells are present in almost every province across Indonesia, which is home to over 12 percent of the world's Muslims, according to Nurmantyo.
“After observation, we see that in almost every province there are already IS cells, but they are sleeper cells,” he said.
However, the danger is that those sleeper cells “can easily join up with other radical cells,” he added, saying that the predominantly-Christian province of Papua has no IS presence.
Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia aren’t the only ones alarmed. On Monday, Singapore said it had arrested a female assistant-childcare worker who was going to join IS. She has become the first woman to be detained on such charges in the island state.
It was only in 2016 that the IS-linked terrorist attack hit the region, with four deaths after gun-and-bomb violence in Jakarta. Since then, there have been a series of minor attacks in Indonesia. The latest, a twin suicide bombing at a Jakarta bus station in May, left three policemen dead.