By Roni Toldanes
The United States on Friday issued sanctions against a Malaysian, a Filipino and an Indonesian, saying they were senior recruiters for the Islamic State (IS) who appeared in a propaganda video in 2016 showing them beheading three captives.
The Treasury Department declared Mohamad Rafi Udin, Mohammed Karim Yusop Faiz and Mohammad Reza Lahaman Kiram as Specially Designated Global Terrorists, alleging that they had recruited foreign fighters to pledge their allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“Treasury is targeting ISIS recruiters who have engaged in a beheading video and other brutal acts as part of a propaganda campaign to attract radicals to join militant terrorist groups in Southeast Asia,” said Sigal Mandelker, the department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, using the other acronym for IS.
“We are sanctioning these terrorists along with our U.N. and international partners as part of a coordinated effort to counter ISIS’s global networks that enable the group to recruit foreign fighters to conduct international terrorist attacks,” Mandelker said.
The designations require U.N. member states to prohibit travel by the three men and deny them access to the international financial system, among other measures.
The statement appeared to refer to an IS video uploaded in mid-2016 in which militants from the three countries, including Udin, declare support for Filipino militant Isnilon Hapilon.
The video marked the first filmed beheadings by Indonesian and Malaysian members of the so-called Islamic State, and signaled growing unity among the region’s jihadists, analysts said at the time.
Hapilon went on to lead a group of fighters, including militants from Southeast Asia and the Middle East, in seizing the southern Philippine city of Marawi in May 2017, leading to a five-month battle with the Philippine military that left about 1,200 dead and tens of thousands displaced.
Hapilon and a top aide were killed in October last year, effectively ending the crisis.
The statement did not give the current location of the three militants but said that as of November 2017, Udin was believed to be the most senior Malaysian IS leader in Syria.
Udin had been involved in militant activities since 1998. He was arrested and detained from 2003 to 2006 for fighting on behalf of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), a Southeast Asian terrorist organization, the Treasury said.
Faiz, an Indonesian national, appeared in the IS video where he also took part in the execution of a prisoner, the statement said. He had earlier been imprisoned in the Philippines for nine years on charges of illegal possession of explosives and weapons.
Kiram, a Filipino, was believed to be in Syria and fighting for IS as of January last year.
Philippine police have accused Kiram of involvement in a 2012 bombing of a bus in which seven passengers were injured in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga. He was a member of a pro-IS militant group in the Philippines and was seen training recruits in 2014 before he travelled to Syria with his wife and daughter the following year, the U.S. Treasury said.