- Indonesian defense minister claimed there are around 1,200 IS operatives in PH
- He feared terror group’s area of operations now global in scale
- He said close regional cooperation necessary to defeat IS
SINGAPORE – Indonesia’s defense minister claimed there are around 1,200 Islamic State operatives inside the Philippines amid growing fears of the terror group’s expanding reach.
“I was advised last night, 1,200 ISIS in the Philippines, around 40 from Indonesia,” the Straits Times quoted Defense Minister Ryamizard Racudu as saying during a three-day security forum in the city-state.
Ryacudu said the huge number of fighters may be a sign that the Islamic State’s operations are growing worldwide.
“The terrorism threat in this region has evolved into an unprecedented immediate level of emergency,” he said. “The death group’s area of operation has gone global.”
Department of Defense Undersecretary Ricardo David, who was also in attendance, expressed surprise at his Indonesian counterpart’s estimate.
“That is new to me,” he said. “My figure is 250 to 400.”
However, David acknowledged that at least 40 foreign fighters were involved in the ongoing clash in Marawi City.
Of the 40, eight have been killed — two Saudis, two Malaysians, two Indonesians, a Yemeni and a Chechen.
For his part, Ryacudu urged better cooperation between Southeast Asian countries in order to defeat the terror group.
“How can we tackle these foreign fighters? We have to be comprehensive,” he said. “We have to find complete ways but we must exercise caution, they are killing machines. Their aim is to kill other people so that’s why it’s our responsibility that we have common understanding, consensus and common proceedings on how to fight these foreign fighters.”