Experts: ISIS still a threat in Asia, but could be a threat anywhere

Experts: ISIS still a threat in Asia, but could be a threat anywhere
Published: Oct. 6, 2017 at 1:29 AM HST|Updated: Oct. 6, 2017 at 7:46 AM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The influence of ISIS is gaining influence in parts of Asia, but the threat from the radical terror group could happen anywhere.

That's the assessment of international journalists in Hawaii who shared what they've learned about the group in a discussion at the East-West Center.

ISIS strongholds may have been falling in Iraq and Syria, and the group's hold is slipping in a southern Philippine city. But a case involving a Hawaii soldier is evidence of the worldwide threat.

"It used to be that ISIS was trying to get people who act on its behalf and was telling them exactly what to do," said Graeme Wood, a national correspondent at The Atlantic. "Now they say don't even try to get a hold of us. Just radicalize on your won and do something without asking."

Wood has personally interviewed ISIS followers around the world. And he's been watching the case of Schofield Army sergeant Ikaika Kang, who was arrested in July for allegedly trying to provide material support and training to the Islamic State.

Wood believes Kang self-radicalized, and would have been especially dangerous because of his access to weapons.

"A way to try to redeem himself and become something great. Now he became something awful, or almost became something awful," said Wood. "But it's a story we've seen over and over again with ISIS."

The experts say ISIS may be losing ground in the Middle East, and is about to lose Marawi, the city in Mindanao that has been under siege since May. But even that loss could be a symbolic victory, said a veteran Philippine investigative journalist.

"There are many people, not just in the southern Philippines but elsewhere in southeast Asia, who now look at them and say they've earned their spurs, so to speak," said John Nery, of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Hawaii has ties to an earlier terrorist. The FBI said Abdel Hameed Shehadeh of New York moved to Oahu in 2009 after traveling to Pakistan to train with Al Qaeda. He was arrested in Honolulu a year later and sentenced to 13 years in federal prison.

The journalists say such individuals could surface here again.

"ISIS is trying to get people to act worldwide, so it could happen in Hawaii," said Wood. "It could happen almost anywhere that you find people who are upset with their lives and who are looking for more."

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