Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein claimed Isis fighters fleeing West Asia were hoping to re-establish themselves in Asean’s dense forests.
He told a meeting of the governing Umno party that so-called Islamic State was Malaysia’s main enemy.
Hishammuddin, also an Umno vice president, said numerous extremists heading east towards Asean and Malaysia must be on the highest alert.
“What happened in Middle East has a direct impact here,” said Hishammuddin. “They claimed they were no more Islamic State elements in Mosul and Raqqa following their offensives.
“The question is: where did they go? This we need to monitor.”
Given the urgency of the matter, Hishammuddin said he would visit Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain this week to obtain the latest intelligence on Isis extremists.
The minister said: “They have already announced that they want to establish in places including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. This is not something new if that’s their agenda.
“This area will be their focus, every country in Asean will have to look at this seriously.”
Malaysia has increased border security at all entry points, especially along the east coast of Sabah on the island of Borneo.
The opposition has accused the government of politicising the threat of Isis, as the general election approaches.
Prime Minister Najib Razak said Malaysia was ready to coordinate with the US to combat terrorism, to achieve the shared objectives of peace, security and stability.
Turning a blind eye to the ongoing US investigation into the 1IMDB scandal, Najib said the two countries shared interests and a commitment to fight extremism.
Najib said Washington would find no more reliable ally in its campaign than Malaysia.
“While we have been fortunate enough never to have suffered the Daesh [Islamic State] or al-Qaeda-linked terrorist attacks that have killed so many in America, we are not immune.
“The first successful Daesh-linked attack took place just outside Kuala Lumpur in June 2016. Eight were injured, none were killed. But that was not for want of trying,” he told an American-Malaysian Chamber of Commerce dinner marking 60 years of diplomatic ties.
Najib claimed the security services had foiled many plots and deserved praise for the tireless work although much of it went unnoticed.
“Their methods and our de-radicalisation programmes which have been hugely productive in rehabilitating extremists, with an over 90-per-cent success rate, are models for countries around the world,” the scandal-hit prime minister told the diners.
Najib hailed Malaysia’s commitment to moderate Islam and its setting up of the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation, the Islamic concept of Wasatiyyah and with the establishment of the King Salman Centre for International Peace in Malaysia.
Mosul late last year. Picture credit: Wikimedia