SINGAPORE – Malaysia said Saturday that it will work with the Philippines and Indonesia to conduct joint patrols in the Sulu Sea targeted at members of the Islamic State group.
Malaysian Defense minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the trio will begin joint sea patrols later this month, in the area bounded by Sabah and the southern Philippines, where Islamic militants intend to "establish a caliphate." Air patrols will start at a later date.
Responding to questions at an international security conference, Hishammuddin explained that Malaysia had conducted a similar operation in the Malacca Strait to clamp down on piracy.
"Different people there we're dealing with, with regards to Islamic militants ... but wish us luck," he quipped.
The Shangri-La Dialogue, which ends Sunday, is attended by defense ministers and experts from 39 countries, including U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
In a wide-ranging speech, Hishammuddin touched on the rising threat that the Islamic State group posed in Asia.
He said the Islamic State's "threat to our region is real. It is multi-dimensional, whether from returning fighters, regional franchises or more disturbingly, from self-radicalized lone wolves."
"Many of the individuals involved (in attacks) were from seemingly good, even prosperous backgrounds or professions. This highlights the insidious nature of radicalization. We cannot generalize on who can turn into a lone wolf," Hishammuddin said.
On Friday, the Islamic State group claimed one of its supporters carried out an attack on a casino in the Philippines in which at least 38 people died. The Philippine military has denied it was a terrorist attack.