KUALA LUMPUR – A former member of southern Thailand’s separatist movement, Awae Wae-Eya, 37, is planning to establish an Islamic State (IS) presence in his country with the hope of securing funds from the global terror group to fund his “jihad”, a senior Malaysian security source has told Channel NewsAsia.
Southern Thailand’s insurgents have so far eschewed transnational extremist groups, including IS, and its radical teachings as their struggle is for greater autonomy, not global jihad.
“Awae pledged allegiance to Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi (leader of IS) and he has contacts in Syria,” the security source told Channel NewsAsia.
Awae hails from Thailand’s Narathiwat province in the south. He is currently wanted by Malaysian police for planning terror plots in Johor state. The police said on Monday (Apr 16) that they were hunting Awae and three other IS-linked suspects involved in a plot to kidnap and murder police officers, as well as attack non-Muslim places of worship.
Awae’s ambitions came to light during the Malaysian intelligence gathering operation which led to six other member of an IS cell being arrested by the Johor counter-terrorism unit.
However, while Malaysian intelligence suggests Awae has plans to establish an IS presence in southern Thailand, the authorities there played down the current risk.
Major-General Sompol Pankul, commander of the Narathiwat Task Force told Channel NewsAsia: “I don’t think Awae is Islamic State.” He did not elaborate.
Isra News Agency of Thailand reported, quoting a security source, that although Awae is not an IS member, he is someone who supports its ideology and way of fighting.
However, while there are differing views about Awae, Panitan Wattanayagorn, principal security advisor to Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan, told Channel NewsAsia that local security agencies are attempting to track him down.
“We hope to identify him in the next few days’ time, perhaps at the end of the week,” said Mr Panitan.
“These suspects in the south, including militants, often have dual citizenship and duplicate names, making it difficult to identify them quickly,” he added.
“To date there are no signs of IS in southern Thailand or of individuals shifting their affiliation from traditional groups to IS.” – Continue Reading
Channel News Asia