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The next state of Rakhine – Southeast Asia’s next Marawi? – Diplomat

What distinguishes jihadist groups and their appeal from other anti-state elements is their ability to model and report that the “land” in which the struggle is taking place is “The Land of the Land”. Allah ”and therefore, jihadists should join them in the struggle for the cause of Allah and Islam. This is what drew thousands of jihadists to Afghanistan in the 1980s, to Iraq and Syria between 2003 and 2018, and in Southeast Asia, to Marawi in the Philippines from May to October 2017. .

Using a similar story and operandi pattern, the modern Rakhine State-based Katiba al-Mahdi fi Bilad al-Arakan militant group is now predicting the Rakhine State in the western part of the country as “a land of migration (hijrah) and legal fight (jihad), ”Used in the jihadi strategy dictionary to refer to a“ battlefield ”in Southeast Asia. In this sense, the hijrah was also used as a tactic to escape the oppression of the “enemy”, allowing the jihadists to regroup and launch their attacks afterwards, as was performed by anti-Suharto groups that eventually turned into Jemaah Islamiyah in 1993 after their hijrah. Malaysia from Indonesia in 1985.

Militia groups of Myanmar

For many years, Myanmar’s military and central state have waged a protracted struggle against the ethnic groups of the Rakhine State, formerly known as the Arakan, especially the religious Rohingya. Recovery.

This history of discrimination and violence has resulted in a wide range of mujahidin struggles against the central state, the first took place from 1947 to 1954, leader by the Northern Arakan Muslim Federation, which plans to make Rakhine an independent country or a part of present-day East Pakistan and Bangladesh. Most of these warriors surrendered in 1957 and the fighting ended.

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Since then, however, numerous militant groups have emerged to support the pro-Rohingya causes regarding Rakhine State autonomy or independence. These groups include: The Rohingya Liberation Party and its armed wing, the Rohingya Liberation Army; Rohingya Independence Front (later renamed the Rohingya Patriotic Front); Rohingya Solidarity Organization; Arakan Rohingya Islamic Front; The Rohingya Arakan National Organization; and later, a group calling itself Harakah al-Yaqin, later renamed the Arakan Rohingya Rescue Army (ARSA).

The ongoing struggle, both political and military, involving the Myanmar state and Islamic groups since 1947 has been exacerbated by the Myanmar army, or the Tatmadaw and its brutal repression. , usually supported by Buddhist right-wing militias. More than a million Rohingyas have fled the country as a result of the persecution since 2016, although the history of violence and discrimination is suggested, as suggested, far further back. For some analysts, the plight of the Rohingya community, especially in refugee camps, is fertile breeding ground for the influence of extremism.

The first Katiba al-Mahdi fi Bilad al-Arakan group rise in November 2020, is the newest Rohingya jihadist group fighting for anti-Myanmar causes and supporting the Rohingya. Katiba, roughly translated as “The Brigade of al-Mahdi in the State of Rakhine,” introduces himself as part of the global struggle against Islamism. It can be distinguished from the former jihadist groups in some numbers.

First, it publicly defines itself in terms Organization or “military brigade”, suggesting that the use of violence is punished to achieve its goal. Second, it openly identifies itself as part of the Islamic State in Khorasan, namely South Asia. Third, it publicly pledged allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi, which was later acknowledged and published in November 2020 in the journal Sawt al-Hind. (“Voice of Hindus”). In the end, it established itself as the “savior” of the Rohingyas, evident from its use of the term. al-Mahdi, referring to the Quranic prophecies in which a Messianic character named Imam Mahdi will appear at the end of time to eliminate the world of evil and injustice.

What is particularly important, however, is Katiba’s description of Rakhine as a “land of land.” hijrah and jihad, ”In an attempt to lobby foreign fighters against Myanmar. In short, Katiba has clearly distinguished himself from past Rohingya groups by openly calling military struggle the only way forward. This will have serious consequences for the security of Myanmar and the surrounding area.

Katiba’s belief system

Katiba’s ideas have been thoroughly covered in a 40-page document released in late 2020 titled “Arakan – A Call to Hijrah”. In this document, it argues that it is imperative for Muslims to fight, where they are residing, or to carry out a hijrah to transform “the land of Suitcase (heathen) “city Darul Islam | (Muslim residence). In this connection, Amir (leader) of Katiba called on Muslims “to perform hijrah to Bilad al-Arakan. “

More importantly, Katiba openly identifies the two enemies it opposes. First, the Buddhist community and the Myanmar state, whom they claim have been behind the protracted persecution of Muslims, especially the Rohingyas, since 1947. Second, Katiba also condemns ARSA and declared it an enemy on the grounds that it was “nationalism”, not. “Islamic.” Katiba’s approach to and shape the ‘problem’ and ‘enemy’ is clearly designed to enhance its Islamic credentials both at home and abroad.

The extent to which Katiba will be able to fulfill his goals remains to be seen. However, it is important to note its intentions for a number of reasons. In recent years, Southeast Asia has witness The “hijrah politics” of jihadists and the dire consequences it can have on a targeted area, in this case, the city of Marawi in the south of the Philippines. Marawi city is not yet recover from the 5-month occupation of the city by the jihadis, although it has been more than three years since the jihadists and foreign fighters were defeated.

If noticed, the call to arms and summon foreign fighters to the state of Rakhine could have serious consequences for the security of Myanmar, Bangladesh, India and ASEAN countries, potentially emitting became the second “hijrah war” in Southeast Asia. Such an outcome could be even more catastrophic when the violent turmoil ensued after the Myanmar army’s coup against the elected civilian government in February.

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Compared to Marawi, the state of Rakhine is much more susceptible to attack by foreign fighters as it can be accessed from many countries, including India and Bangladesh, as well as maritime routes similar to the ones. carried out by the Rohingyas to escape the wrath of the Burmese security forces in recent years. In particular, Bangladesh is an ideal entry point for foreign fighters as it has traditionally is a route for smuggling of people, drugs and weapons. The Myanmar-Bangladesh border is also difficult to secure due to the mountainous terrain and dense forest.

In terms of global transnational jihadist movements, Katiba’s call for the hijrah will represent ISIS’s second risky operation into the region through this strategy after Marawi. This also comes at a precarious time amid the ongoing large-scale humanitarian crisis facing the Rohingya in western Myanmar. In addition, if Rakhine becomes “the land of the hijrah”, with its location, it will also allow foreign fighters to enter South and Southeast Asia, with the region emerging as an alternative. not only for Marawi but also for other “jihadist lands” in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Although the “story of Arakan” is not new, it could mark the expansion of jihad theater in Southeast Asia. During this event, Southeast Asian jihadist groups, especially from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines, may wish to volunteer for this purpose. In fact, earlier in 2017, the Pembela Indonesia Islamic Front (FPI) extremist group was said to have carried out. registration out of 1,200 mujahidin Volunteers join the humane jihad in Myanmar. The same can be expected for groups affiliated with the Islamic State of Indonesia (IS) such as Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD). Whether pro-Al Qaeda groups, which are competing with ISIS, will be in the fight. It is also not possible to discount pro-ISIS groups from the Indian subcontinent that participated in this “hijrah and jihad” in Myanmar.

Equally noteworthy is the fact that there may be willing and ready Rohingyas in refugee camps in South and Southeast Asia who may be prepared to do justice. While the majority of the Rohingyas in South Asia are in Bangladesh and Pakistan, in Southeast Asia, yes Thousands Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Such groups could be persuaded to join Katiba’s war in Myanmar, backed by a powerful and compelling ideology to “save” the Rohingyas while punishing Myanmar for decades of abuse and abuse. use.


Although IS may soon be defeated in the Middle East, it is far from becoming a worldwide spending force. The rise of Katiba al-Mahdi and its approach to jihad in Myanmar is a development that, if continued, could have serious consequences on the security of South and Southeast Asia. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a new terrorist threat may emerge in Myanmar. Exactly what threat it poses to Myanmar and how it can connect with jihadis in the region are still unknown. That said, given Myanmar’s position between South and Southeast Asia, the impact of Katiba al-Mahdi’s existence needs to be acknowledged and appreciated by security planners in the region.

Since jihadist groups tend to compete with each other, how will the existence of Katiba al-Mahdi affect the Rohingyas, who are in dire straits in refugee camps in Bangladesh or di dissipation within Myanmar, should also be monitored. Although Katiba al-Mahdi’s call to use the hijrah is in its early stages and may be of rhetorical importance, the fact that such an organization exists is warning enough of existence. continued jihadi threat in the region, despite the slow slowdown of IS in the Middle East.

With the domestic political situation in Myanmar worsening after the recent coup, and the country risks falling into a new period of uncertainty and aggravating conflict, new opportunities are possible. It opened up for jihadist groups like Katiba al-Mahdi to infiltrate both Myanmar and Southeast. Asia adopts Rakhine state, creating the potential for a “second Marawi” in Southeast Asia. Increased instability in Myanmar following the coup requires close scrutiny to determine how national, regional and transnational jihadist groups may want to exploit the possibilities of an ongoing crisis .



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