Malaysia's defence minister: Regional cooperation vital to combat IS threat

Malaysia's defence minister: Regional cooperation vital to combat IS threat

KUALA LUMPUR - Cooperation among regional powers is vital to combat the Islamic State (IS) threat, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.

"Close collaboration between neighbouring countries, including Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei, requires us to work together not just in the context of asset deployment but also in sharing of information, intelligence and coordination for any counterattack, if necessary," he said at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

He said air strikes in Syria by the United States and its allies did not appear to be effective for now and Malaysia had to consider its own approaches.

Hishammuddin, however, said Malaysia was keeping a close eye on the methods used by western powers in combating IS.

"It is important for us to monitor what is right and what is wrong, what are the pros and cons and then translate it to our capabilities here in this region.

"We cannot work in isolation. We need to work with our friends and our neighbours. The silence from Arab states is quite deafening when it comes to the issue of the Islamic State. We do not want that to happen here," he said.

Hishamuddin said while the situation in Malaysia was not dire, military intervention would not be ruled out if the threat worsened to a critical level.

"All options are open to us. However, I think it is better to strengthen our working arrangements with our neighbours, look at our assets and take proactive measures first before directly engaging with groups that are shadowy, not easily identifiable and those who use modern tools to recruit members," he added.

Hishamuddin said that while Malaysians had travelled to the Middle East to assist in IS activities, the country was not a target by the international militant group.

He added that allegations of IS's involvement in a purported plan to attack a brewery in Malaysia was merely speculation.

Among regional militant groups that have indicated support for IS are the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf and the Moro National Liberation Front.

"These statements are something that we cannot take lightly even though the threat level is still low," said Hishammuddin.

He said the threat was taken seriously by the Federal Government as reflected in Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's significant Budget 2015 allocation to beef up defence in Sabah's east coast.

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