WASHINGTON: Muslim extremists in Southeast Asia are “sowing the seeds of terror” by financially backing mosques and schools supporting their radical brand of Islam, a report prepared by the US State Department has found.
According to a report in The News, the report, which was released earlier this week, said that the Muslims in Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Cambodia “are vulnerable to such radical influences.”
The report further said that Asia was the hardest hit by terrorism in 2003, recording both the highest number of terror attacks and the greatest loss of life. A total of 159 people were killed and 951 others wounded in 70 terrorist attacks reported in the region during that period.
US counter-terrorism co-operation with Asian governments had been good and “solid progress was made to close seams between jurisdictions and share information on terrorist groups and their activities,” the report said while cautioning that “extremists have been able to win supporters by financially supporting schools and mosques that espouse their brand of Islam and exploiting religious sympathies or discontent among Muslim populations”.
The paper quoted Cofer Black, US co-ordinator for counter-terrorism, as saying in the report that among the items captured from Osama bin laden’s al-Qaeda terrorists last year were copies of the Qur’aan, “containing bombs”.
Many governments in Southeast Asia have blamed radical teachings in Muslim schools, most of which operated outside the ambit of the government, for fanning armed militant struggles or fuelling terrorism.
Many leaders of Southeast Asian groups had fought or claim to have fought in Afghanistan in the “Jihad” and brought back critical skills and contacts, along with burnished extremist credentials, the report concluded.