The military chief in Jakarta says Daesh is present in almost all the Indonesian provinces as the Middle East-based Takfiri terror group is expanding its foothold in Southeast Asia.
General Gatot Nurmantyo told reporters late on Monday that there are Daesh cells “in almost every province,” but noted that “they are sleeper cells.”
“These sleeper cells can easily join up with other radical cells,” Nurmantyo added.
Militants have launched several terrorist attacks across Indonesia over the past few years. In the latest such assaults, two bombings claimed by Daesh rocked a bus station in eastern Jakarta on May 24, killing three police officers.
Indonesian law enforcement agencies have arrested hundreds of militants during a sustained crackdown in recent years.
At least 400 Indonesians are reportedly believed to have joined the Daesh terrorist group in Iraq and Syria, where the Takfiri outfit is mainly based. Dozens of the extremists have returned home.
Nurmantyo’s remarks underlined concerns about the increasing influence of Daesh in Southeast Asia.
Governments across the region have been on high alert since terrorists from local militant groups, which have pledged allegiance to Daesh, overran Philippines’ southern city of Marawi about three weeks ago.
The Philippine military, which is involved in aerial and ground operations in Marawi, said on Tuesday that the terrorists are still in control of about 20 percent of the city.
Indonesian and Malaysian officials have beefed up security measures on their shared borders with the Philippines to prevent militants from escaping from Marawi.
“It’s easy to jump from Marawi to Indonesia and we must all beware of sleeper cells being activated in Indonesia,” Nurmantyo said.
In Iraq and Syria, Daesh militants have been taking heavy blows from government forces. A total of over 30,000 foreign nationals have flocked to the two countries to fight alongside Daesh extremists or other foreign-sponsored terrorist groups.