As a fierce standoff between Philippines security forces and militants fighting under the Daesh flag continues in the city of Marawi, US and Australian officials warn that fighters may return to Southeast Asia from the Middle East, to take up arms in their own countries.
The Indonesian defense minister said Sunday at an international security forum in Singapore that around 40 out of 1,200 Daesh militants fighting in the Philippines are from Indonesia, referring to the fighters as "killing machines."
The issue of the impending return of hundreds of Southeast Asian fighters who also fought with Daesh in Syria and Iraq has been part of the agenda at an Australia-US ministerial summit, attended by top US and Australian officials, including Pentagon chief Jim Mattis and Canberra's Defense Minister Marise Payne.
"[Deash fighters will] come back with battlefield skills, they'll come back with hardened ideology, they'll come back angry, frustrated, and we need to be very aware of that," Payne said.
Payne voiced "absolute support" for US President Donald Trump's newly introduced "annihilation tactics" in the fight against Daesh, aimed at targeting the terror group more aggressively and preventing those who choose to fight with Daesh from coming back to their home countries, importing their military experience and ideology along with them.
"In this campaign, where before we were shelling them from one town to another, we now take the time… to make certain that foreign fighters do not stay to return to Paris, France, to Australia… and bring their message of hatred and their skills back to those places and attack innocent people," Mattis said, adding that the new approach doesn't obviate the policy of doing everything possible to prevent civilian casualties.
Australian officials say they have prevented 12 terror attacks on home soil since 2014, with more than 60 people charged with terrorism-related offenses.
The Philippines military is confronting the Maute extremist group, which has pledged allegiance to Daesh, in an ongoing clash in the city of Marawi. Maute fighters went on a rampage through Marawi in response to security forces raiding the hideout of Isnilon Hapilon, leader of local extremist group and Daesh affiliate Abu Sayyaf.
This story first appeared on Sputnik & is reposted here with permission.