The influence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant extends well beyond the land it controls in Syria and Iraq, reaching recruits around the world, including the Asia-Pacific region. Here’s a look at how ISIL is affecting those countries:
ISIL has been particularly effective at recruiting followers in Australia. An estimated 120 Australians are believed to be fighting with militant groups in Syria and Iraq, a relatively high number given Australia’s population of just 24 million. Many more have followed ISIL’s calls for inciting violence within Australia. In a bid to stem the flow of foreign fighters, Australia made it a criminal offense for its citizens to travel to certain parts of ISIL-held Iraq and Syria.
ISIL claimed responsibility for the killings in Bangladesh of an Italian and a Japanese, gunned down five days apart. The government dismissed the claims. Still, the country has seen a rise in violence blamed on radical Islamist groups. Most of Bangladesh’s 172 million citizens are Muslim. While the government is secular, the emergence of Islamist political groups has contributed to political instability.
India’s 172 million Muslims are seen as relatively deprived, and tensions with majority Hindus have been a seven-decade constant since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. But officials and analysts say India’s Muslims are traditionally moderate and unlikely ISIL recruits.
An estimated 600 Indonesians have joined ISIL, and more than 30 have returned to their homeland, Gen. Badrodin Haiti said. All have been questioned, 15 have been arrested and 12 of those face trial. Some of the money used to support ISIL activities in Indonesia has been traced to Australia.
Predominantly Muslim Malaysia has detained 123 people suspected to be linked to ISIL, including civil servants and members of security forces, in the past two years. Police have said some were plotting to launch attacks in strategic areas of Kuala Lumpur, the capital. Some 100 Malaysians were also believed to have gone to Syria to join the group. A new law aimed at curbing the growth of ISIL allows detention without trial and without possibility of a court challenge.
The tiny Indian Ocean archipelago nation is quickly earning a reputation as a recruitment mecca for radicals. The country of 350,000 is almost entirely Muslim, and some analysts say it has provided one of the world’s highest numbers per capita of ISIL recruits. The government has started to worry about fallout. Parliament is now debating legislation to check on citizens who travel abroad, though it has yet to clarify exactly what those laws might look like.
Militants from at least four small but violent Muslim insurgent groups in the Philippines pledged support last year to ISIL. Security officials say they have found no clear evidence so far of a direct link and active collaboration between ISIL extremists and any of the groups. But former President Fidel Ramos said last year that at least 100 young Muslim Filipinos have traveled to Iraq to undergo training and later return home as “jihadists.” Philippine officials have approved the creation of an interagency group that such militants.