INDONESIA - Two Rohingya leaders travelled to Indonesia recently to meet hardline groups in the hope of enlisting their support and assistance. The militants were in the market for more fighters, guns, cash and bomb-making instructors.
The pair were identified as cleric Abu Arif and militant commander Abu Shafiyah, linked to the Rohingya Solidarity Organisation (RSO).
They reportedly said that some 300 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar have been undergoing military training in Rakhine state to step up retaliatory attacks against Buddhists who had been persecuting them.
The visit, announced on the radical Ar Rahmah Media Network website, is another sign that Myanmar's sectarian clashes are spilling beyond its borders.
Sympathy for the Rohingyas runs high in Indonesia, where the authorities have managed to prevent large-scale terror attacks in recent years, but extremist militancy remains a concern.
Indonesian counter-terror officers foiled a home-grown plot to attack the Myanmar Embassy here in May.
In India on Sunday, nine bombs went off at a Buddhist temple.
On Wednesday, the Ar Rahmah website founded by Jemaah Islamiah (JI) member Muhammad Jibril Abdul Rahman also uploaded 28 photos of Rohingyas undergoing military training in Rakhine state, billing it a "Ramadan gift" and hoping it would "encourage Muslims around the world to reignite jihad in Arakan". Arakan is the former name of Rakhine state.
International Crisis Group senior adviser Sidney Jones told The Straits Times: "There's a long history between the JI and RSO that goes back to Afghanistan."
Indonesian Muhammad Jibril was a member of the JI's Karachi- based Al-Ghuraba cell, had links to Al-Qaeda and Taleban staff, and was put on a sanctions list by the United States in 2011.
The RSO was founded in 1982 as a rebel group and its members trained in South Asia alongside other militant groups.
Those links now appear to have been rekindled, aided by widespread sympathy for the plight of some 800,000 Rohingya Muslims, many of whom continue to flee persecution by Buddhist hardliners.
On their visit to Jakarta late last month, the Rohingya leaders called on established radical groups such as the Indonesian Mujahidin Council, Islamic Community Forum and Islamic Defenders Front.
Security analyst Harry Purwanto told The Straits Times that the choice could be because these groups have been most sympathetic to their cause, even threatening to attack Myanmar interests in Indonesia.
Terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna told The Straits Times that while extremist Rohingya groups are reviving regional links, they have never had much support at home.
"But this may change, hence it is important for the international community to resolve the conflict situation in Myanmar," he added.
On Wednesday, Indonesia's government blocked access to a YouTube video of the country's most wanted militant, Santoso, urging his followers to battle counter-terrorism officers, after news of it broke a day earlier.
National police spokesman Brigadier-General Ronny Sompie told reporters that the move was taken to ensure public order, and police were trying to identify the uploader.