The Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) said the ability of pro-Daesh fighters to occupy an entire city for almost two months had already inspired further violence in the region and could lead to more attacks on urban areas.
“The risks won’t end when the military declares victory,” IPAC Director Sidney Jones said.
“Indonesia and Malaysia will face new threats in the form of returning fighters from Mindanao, and the Philippines will have a host of smaller dispersed cells with the capacity for both violence and indoctrination.”
Daesh-linked militants from the Maute group and Abu Sayyaf are still holding out in the mainly Muslim city on the southern island of Mindanao.
More than 550 people have been killed, including nearly 100 government troops and 45 civilians, in a siege that began May 23 following government forces’ failed attempt to capture a senior terrorist.
The IPAC said the battle had led to greater coordination between extremist groups across Southeast Asia and strengthened capacity among pro-Daesh cells in Indonesia and Malaysia.
The report also noted how a chain of command existed between the Daesh leadership in Syria and Marawi, with a crucial role played by former Malaysian university lecturer Mahmud Ahmad, who recruited fighters and arranged laundered funding for the Marawi attack.
“The Marawi operations received direct funding from ISIS central and reveal a chain of command that runs from Syria through the Philippines to Indonesia and beyond,” the report said, using an alternative acronym for Daesh.
It added: “Governments need to be thinking now about the role that key Southeast Asians in ISIS… might play in a post-Marawi scenario.”
The institute also warned of the possibility of a new Daesh regional center emerging in the Philippines or elsewhere in the region.
Two previously opposed pro-Daesh groups in Indonesia had cooperated to send an estimated 20 fighters to Marawi and a network led by Ahmad and a young Indonesian fighter in Syria named Bahrumsyah could be preparing further attacks.
Greater counter-terrorism cooperation between Southeast Asian countries, such as a better integrated terrorist watch-list, was needed, the IPAC said.
The Philippine government and international donors must give urgent attention to Marawi’s evacuees and to the city’s role in attracting terror recruits.