KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s Hishammuddin Hussein has said that Southeast Asia needs to take proactive measures to protect the region as Iraqi forces begin an offensive in Islamic State-stronghold Mosul.
Speaking to reporters in Parliament on Monday (Oct 17), the Defence Minister said “tens of thousands” of IS members are expected to begin fleeing Iraq and neighbouring Syria, before travelling to the Southeast Asian region.
“Intelligence and international intelligence have informed me that the numbers are not going to be small,” Channel NewsAsia quoted Hisham as saying.
“Either they go back to their countries of origin – whether to France or other countries – or they find save havens in certain regions. So we have to be very proactive.
“We’re unsure of the numbers just yet because the offensive hasn’t really started in full but we have to take proactive measures to make sure in the event that the numbers are big in our region, the threat that we face is also faced by our own leadership in Asean,” said the minister.
In the wake of this threat, Hisham said it has become more important to have strong allies. He has met with US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter, as well as France and Turkey defence ministers to solidify cooperation.
In this region, Malaysia has ensured strong defence ties with neighbours Indonesia and the Philippines.
The three nations are already working together on joint patrols in the Sulu Sea, waters where Abu Sayyaff militants have staged many abductions.
Malaysia plans on inviting Brunei to join the patrols soon.