Islamic State likely to target Southeast Asia in coming months, analysts say
Terrorist group could carry out Paris-style attack in tourist hotspot or at a key infrastructure point such as an airport, they warn
Indicators show terrorists are likely to strike Southeast Asia’s tourist attractions this summer, security experts have warned.
Recent developments concerning Islamic State (IS) across Asia suggest the group have recruited locally and were likely to carry out a major strike, according to Alex Bomberg, group chief of Intelligent Protection International, part of Intelligent (UK Holdings).
IS had developed localised organisations and operations in Southeast Asia and was active in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Bangladesh. In addition, fighters recruited from Asia to fight in Syria and Iraq were starting to return home, as the extremists’ war in the Middle East was facing defeat.
“I think they are ready to do something in Asia. I think it’s going to happen very soon,” Bomberg said.
Last week the United States warned of possible summer terrorist attacks in Europe, saying targets could include the European soccer championship in France or the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day events, based on an accumulation of information.
Raffaello Pantucci, a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute in London, said he wouldn’t be surprised “if we saw an attack somewhere in Southeast Asia that is seen as being inspired, linked or maybe even directed by IS”.
Bomberg said an attack would likely target tourist hotspots and be paired with a strike on infrastructure such as a subway or airport.
To maximise damage and casualties, IS had adopted an “active shooter” tactic, where multiple gunmen simultaneously open fire with automatic weapons and quickly move from one location to the next, as was seen in Paris in November, he said.
“They are not going to waste opportunities,” he said. “They are going to want it to be spectacular.”
His company, which provides protection services to British royals and high net worth individuals, urged Asian countries to improve information sharing and be more open with the public.
If there were an attack in Hong Kong, it would be a “strike at the heart of the dragon”, according to Bomberg.
But given a lack of support for terrorist groups in the financial city, Hong Kong was at less of an immediate risk than were Indonesia, Malaysia or the Philippines, said Pantucci.
Li Lifan, a researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said airports authorities in Hong Kong and Beijing were effective in using biometric information shared by the international community to screen out dangerous people upon entry.
Mainland China had also become vigilant and awareness about terrorism in the country was high, Li said.