Small Wars Journal

How Big A Threat Is Extremism In Southeast Asia?

How Big A Threat Is Extremism In Southeast Asia? By Ashley Westerman, National Public Radio

A recent string of violent episodes in Southeast Asian countries sheds some light on the challenges facing this region as it grapples with extremism.

In Indonesia last month, two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a Jakarta bus station. The attack was linked to an ISIS-affiliated group.

In Thailand, a rash of attacks linked to Islamist insurgent groups took place throughout April and into May in the restive, Muslim-dominated south — including a car bomb attack outside a shopping mall that wounded more than 50 people.

And in the Philippines, ISIS-linked militants recently took over and occupied Marawi, a city in the country's Muslim-majority island of Mindanao. President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law on Mindanao on May 23, and the Philippine army has been fighting the militants for almost three weeks. The death toll has topped 150, according to the military.

The attacks raise important questions about the extent of militancy and potential threats in this region.

The Islamist groups battling the Philippine military in Marawi — including the well-established Abu Sayyaf and a newer group, called Maute — have only recently come together under the ISIS flag. And they've been getting some help from abroad, analysts say…

Read on.