ISIS fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia form military unit

ISIS fighters from Malaysia, Indonesia form military unit
A photo posted on Facebook showing a gathering of ISIS militants from Malaysia and Indonesia in Syria. The page has since been closed, the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict says.

Militants from Indonesia and Malaysia fighting in Syria have formed a military unit for Malay- speaking ISIS fighters, and analysts fear this could expand their reach in South-east Asia.

The unit is called Katibah Nusantara Lid Daulah Islamiyyah, or Malay archipelago unit for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (Ipac) estimates in a report that the new unit has at least 22 members. They came together in the town of Al-Shadadi, in Syria's Hasaka province, early last month.

Indonesian fighters Bahrum Syah - who appeared in a recent ISIS recruitment video - and Rosikien Nur posted a photo of one meeting on Facebook. The page has since been closed, Ipac said.

Observers say the men appear to have been brought together by language reasons and social media, as many Indonesians found it hard to get along in multinational ISIS units with their limited Arabic and English.

"This group was formed with a goal to recruit and facilitate people who want to go to Syria to defend the Islamic caliphate, and also do counter-attacks against governments that repress caliphate supporters," analyst Robi Sugara of the Barometer Institute told The Straits Times.

Officials say there are more than 50 Indonesian nationals and at least as many Malaysians fighting in Syria.

Reports of the unit came as Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman announced to the UN Security Council in New York on Wednesday that his country had designated ISIS as a terrorist group, and vowed tougher action.

Mr Ansyaad Mbai, head of Indonesia's National Counter-Terrorism Agency, said yesterday that he could not comment on the new unit yet.

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