KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – Malaysia’s Defence Minister has labelled efforts by a US-led coalition to push back the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria “ineffective”, and called for regional cooperation to prevent extremists from gaining a foothold in Southeast Asia.
Citing neighbours Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei Darussalam, Hishammuddin said the region needed more intelligence-sharing and other cooperation on the IS threat.
“Air strikes by the United States and its allies (against IS in Syria and Iraq) appear to be ineffective for now. So, we need to consider our own approach,” Hishammuddin Hussein was quoted as saying in The Star newspaper.
“We cannot work in isolation. We need to work with our friends and our neighbours,” he said on Thursday.
Hishammuddin also lamented the hesitation of the Arab world in condemning the group.
“The silence of Arab states is quite deafening when it comes to the IS issue,” he said.
Concern is growing in Southeast Asia over the potential for the Islamic State to gain followers in the region.
Authorities in Malaysia said they arrested 14 people this week, including a government engineer, for suspected links to the extremist group.
Those arrested included IS supporters who sought to recruit Malaysians and arrange for their travel to Syria.
Malaysian authorities said that around three dozen people have been detained this year over IS-related activities.
At least 40 Malaysians are believed to have left for Syria.
Meanwhile, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told leaders from Asia and Europe on Friday that Singapore is seriously looking into how it can help in the fight against IS, the Straits Times reported.
Speaking at a leaders’ retreat on the final day of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit, Lee said Singapore welcomed the recent formation of a broad international coalition, including the United States and many Arab countries, to combat the threat posed by ISIS.
He noted there was “no purely military solution to this problem, because the situation in Iraq and Syria is complex … but it is still necessary to contain and weaken ISIS”.