KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia is serious about the country's security and agrees with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that the so-called Islamic State (IS) terror group should not be allowed to gain a foothold in this region.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who met MILF chairman Murad Ibrahim here, said both of them agreed they did not want the region to be used by IS to spread its influence and ideology.
Their meeting at the Defence Ministry yesterday came as the United States and other nations widened air strikes against IS fighters in Iraq and Syria while ASEAN expressed concern over the rise of violence and brutality by radical groups in the two countries.
In a statement released in Bangkok, ASEAN said these groups posed a threat to not only the people of Iraq and Syria but also to all the countries in the Middle East and, if left unchecked, to the rest of the world.
Malaysia had rejected allegations it was being used for secret training hideouts and as a transit point for foreign militants.
"I had a discussion with him (Murad) today regarding the IS threat.
"Both of us agreed we do not want the region to be used by IS to spread its influence and ideology," Hishammuddin told reporters after the meeting.
He said Malaysia stopped three people who were recently on their way to Syria.
Three other Malaysians were arrested last Thursday as they were about to board a plane to Turkey, en route to Syria, to purportedly join the IS.
Hishammuddin said there were also threats from other groups, including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), Abu Sayyaf, which had declared their support for IS, and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari, who reportedly planned to form an Islamic caliphate in South-East Asia, that includes Sabah and Sarawak, the southern Philippines, Brunei and Indonesia.
Hishammuddin said in their meeting, he and Murad also talked of the situation in southern Philippines.
He said as Malaysia would be taking over the ASEAN chair next year, he hoped all member countries of the grouping would take part in the peace process.
"We have to be united in this front," he said.
A Bangsamoro Bill, which seeks to implement the peace pact signed between the Philippines government and the MILF to end decades of Muslim secessionist movement in the region, has reportedly been submitted to the Philippines House of Representatives for discussion.