Southeast Asian states continue to confront violent extremist organisations even in the post-Daesh era. The collapse of the so-called Islamic State (IS) caliphate in Syria has raised concerns over the fate of returning foreign fighters specifically those originally from Indonesia and Malaysia. Ad hoc policies dominate state responses to reintegrating returnees and their families back into their communities. Non-government organisations play outsized roles in assisting returnees’ families and kin.
The challenge posed by violent extremism is not limited to individuals with combat experience in overseas theatres. The distinct history and socioeconomic conditions in various Southeast Asian states allows armed groups to sustain themselves. Kinetic approaches to violent extremism remains the most established form of counter-terrorism in the region. In countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, law enforcement and security services have prioritised disruption and destruction of terrorist cells. In the Philippines, the multiplicity of threat groups have led to the heavy reliance on military involvement in counter-terrorism.
The Battle for Marawi is illustrative of the deep-seated roots of violence in the region. Sans the emergence of a globalised terrorist narrative, local conditions incentivise the emergence of non-state armed groups. It is clear that non-military and non-kinetic approaches need to be further emphasised and coordinated through mechanisms such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The tendency to engage in cooperative military activities is self-limiting. Generic “intelligence exchanges” also fail to break away from the securitised emphasis of current counterterrorism strategies.
The Battle for Marawi
On 23 May 2017, the Islamic City of Marawi saw the beginning of clashes between the IS-linked Maute Group (MG) and Philippine security forces. The fighting started when Philippine security forces sought to issue an arrest warrant against the then “emir” of IS-pledged militants in Southeast Asia—Isnilon Hapilon. Hapilon was previously the leader of a major Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) faction in Basilan province and linked up with the Lanao del Sur-based MG. The move was an attempt to consolidate IS influence in Philippines.
After five months of fighting, the major combat operations ceased at the cost of 168 security forces personnel killed. On the side of the extremists, more than a thousand enemy combatants were killed. To date, 24 villages or barangays in what was previously referred to as the ‘Main Battle Area’ (MBA), now called ‘Most Affected Area’ remain off limits to residents—effectively keeping more than a 100000 residents displaced indefinitely. Growing impatience with the stalled pace of the rehabilitation has led some observers to remark that one need not look far for the “next Marawi”—as a botched reconstruction can lead to a new cycle of violence.
Rather than a reflection of operational initiative by the IS leadership in the Levant, the emergence of Hapilon and his allies was largely a result of long-rooted local issues in the Southern Philippines. Even at the height of the fighting, there was no evidence of involvement by IS’ erstwhile intelligence and expeditionary force known as Emni. Real and perceived grievances held by the Bangsamoro community along with and socioeconomic deprivation has made communities in the southern Philippines vulnerable to influence of violent extremist organisations (VEO).
The regional narrative during the height of the siege was the notion that Marawi was the bellwether for jihadist influence in Southeast Asia. There were concerns that as the so-called physical caliphate collapses in Syria and Iraq, the IS leadership would transfer to Southeast Asia. Simplistic perspective such as is more reflective of the cottage industry of self-proclaimed terrorism experts who have the penchant of inflating the threat. At the height of the crisis, the long-feared emergence of a ‘Wilayah Philippines’ never materialised. While IS claimed to have established an East Asia Wilayah, it appears more an aspirational goal rather than an objective reality. IS propaganda, at least in Southeast Asia, appear to be limited more to words than deeds.
Post-Marawi challenges to Southeast Asia
As fighting ended in Marawi, there was optimism that militancy in Southeast Asia would experience a downturn. The recapture of territories in Iraq and Syria from the IS core should not be expected to dissipate the localised roots of conflict in Southeast Asian states.
In Indonesia, there is an apparent escalation in terms of the quality of terrorist tactics. On 13 May 2018, three near simultaneous suicide bombings that targeted Christian places of worship rocked the Indonesian city of Surabaya. Indonesia while being no stranger to suicide attacks saw the incident as unprecedented as it involved an entire family launching an attack—including children of minor age. In the Philippines, a suicide attack suspected launched by an Indonesian couple targeted the Jolo Cathedral in Sulu Province—an attack later to be claimed by IS-linked propagandists. More than half a year later, Indanan town in Sulu saw the first suicide bombing attack involving a Filipino, which targeted the headquarters of the newly formed 1st Brigade Combat Team of the Philippine Army.
Aside from the seeming persistence of terrorist tactics, the greater source of concern for Southeast Asian states is the return of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) to their home countries. Numbers vary, but some studies estimate that more than 40,000 FTFs from 80 countries swelled the ranks of IS. Of this number, it is estimated that no more than 2,000 came from Southeast Asia, mostly Indonesians. Indonesia is in the process of mulling over the fate of 100 family members of Indonesian FTFs in just one north Syrian camp, whether they would be allowed to return to Indonesia on humanitarian grounds. Malaysia on the other hand has dozens of its national awaiting their fates in northern Syrian refugee camps.For other countries such as Singapore and the Philippines, the number of potential returnees are negligible, due largely to the handful of FTFs that made the journey to Syria and/or Iraq.
Fortunately, at the time of this writing the feared waves of returning FTFs have yet to materialise. At the beginning of 2019, Singapore publicly released its Singapore Terrorism Threat Assessment Report 2019. It notes that the region “hasn’t yet seen a tide of ISIS fighters returning from Iraq and Syria”. The recurring narrative of course for states is to stress that however nebulous, the threat from FTFs and more prevalent use of suicide attack tactics can grow.
Regional-level counterterrorism strategies
In the face of these two pressing challenges, the soft institutions provided by the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) seem inadequate to respond swiftly to emerging threats. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, ASEAN immediately promulgated its 2001 Declaration on Joint Action to Counter Terrorism as building upon the various policy instruments the grouping has crafted to address transnational crimes. The 2001 Declaration made in Brunei Darussalam followed the usual template of ASEAN declarations which stressed collaborative approaches but prized Member-States’ sovereignty first. This stance is reflected on the first line of “practical measures” calling for Member-States to “Review and strengthen our national mechanisms to combat terrorism [emphasis added]”.
The diffuse links between Southeast Asian militants is therefore not met by an equally robust regional response. The 2007 ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism further enshrined the continued primacy of national responses to counter-terrorism. It is telling that Article V of the 2007 Convention titled “Preservation of Sovereignty” preceded the generic list of activities found on Article VI entitled “Areas of Cooperation”.
At the height of the Marawi siege, ASEAN’s institutional inertia saw the reliance on generic forms of counter-terrorism cooperation. The penchant of Southeast Asian states to promote “intelligence exchanges” seems to have continued notwithstanding the changing nature and modus of violent extremists in the region.
Singapore spearheaded the creation of the ‘Our Eyes Initiative” which included five other ASEAN countries: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. On the surface, it appears to be a superficial replication of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance comprised of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. It remains to be seen whether OEI would lead to a qualitative shift; fulfilment of the promise to exchange “strategic information on terrorism, radicalism and violent extremism” Arguably, the intrinsically secretive nature of intelligence exchanges may preclude meaningful analyses of its effectiveness.
A more visible example of multilateral cooperation against terrorism is through the conduct of joint patrols. Specifically, maritime patrols in the border regions shared by maritime Southeast Asian states Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. As early as the 1970s, joint patrols have been held by the three neighbouring states, but largely motivated to prevent transnational criminal activities such as smuggling and human trafficking.
Prompted by the Marawi siege, the 2017 Trilateral Cooperative Agreement sought to create operations hubs in each of the three countries as well as integrate observer countries such as Brunei and Singapore. However, while images and video of joint maritime forces flying the flag may make for good press coverage, the trilateral patrols do not even scratch the surface of the local roots of conflict that incentivise cross-border illicit activities. Zooming into the actual premise behind the trilateral patrols, specifically the purported movement of militants across the Sulu Sea reveals a sobering conclusion. Based on actual kidnapping data in the Sulu Sea, it emerged that:
“Military measures alone will not reduce the risk of Abu Sayyaf kidnappings or terrorist transit in the Sulu and Sulawesi Seas. Regional initiatives such as the Trilateral Maritime Patrol (TMP) are useful for strengthening cooperation among the Indonesian, Malaysian and Philippine militaries but they are unlikely to have much impact on curbing violent extremism.”
Thus, while it appears the 2017 Battle for Marawi could have provided an impetus for more concerted regional efforts, it appears that ASEAN Member-States went business-as-usual. Institutional inertia is a reflection of how ASEAN has operated in the decades since its inception and not due to deliberate stalling by anyone member. In short, what is clear is that to counter terrorism in the post-IS age, it is best to look at national-level responses instead.
Indonesia’s kinetic strategic and ad hoc returnee policies
For Indonesia, the IS-inspired Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) is at the forefront of law enforcement operations. The JAD was banned in 2018 for “conducting terrorism” and affiliation with foreign militants. At the tip of the spear is the elite Densus 88 counter-terrorism unit, which was trained along Western lines. Densus 88 has consistently neutralised JAD personnel and other armed groups with links to international jihadist organisations. Other special units have also met remarkable success in eliminating top leadership figures in the Indonesian jihadist milieu such as Santoso who founded the Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT).
What confounds Indonesian authorities is the problem of deradicalising individuals held for various-terrorism related offenses. Prisons in Indonesia whether those for tried and convicted; or suspects n remand are notoriously overcrowded. Instead of rehabilitation, prisons become the breeding ground for militants. Individuals who held leadership positions or were terrorist cadre found themselves inadvertently placed in situations that they have a literal captive audience to radicalise.
Conversely, jihadist ideologues who lacked illicit skills were able to gain knowledge from their co-detainees. It was unsurprising to see jihadists picking up financial fraud skills from common criminals to weapons skills from violent detainees. In turn, common criminals or members of organised crime were exposed to extremist discourses and narratives that he could be the pathway to future membership in VEOs.
The legacy issues in the preceding discussion is further complicated by the policy dilemma posed by Indonesian currently languishing in refugee camps in Syria which by some estimates number around 500. These include women and children who were non-combatants still holding on to their Indonesia passports, brought over by their male relatives. One of the pilot programmes to assimilate such returnees include the creation of a halfway house where they stay for a month. It is unclear how effective such halfway houses are as well as the broader prevention campaigns pursued by the Indonesian government. The aforementioned Surabaya suicide bombings were carried out by a family of six, affiliated with the JAD who came back from Syria after living in the so-called caliphate.
Malaysia’s legalistic law enforcement strategy
In Malaysia, the government has premised its law enforcement strategy by reinventing anti-subversion mechanisms that date back to the British rule in colonial-era Malaya. In 1948, the British first implemented preventive detention to combat the subversion posed by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). The so-called ‘Malayan Emergency’ only ended in 1960, as Malaya became an independent political entity. Preventive detention appeared to have been institutionalised as the practice became codified in the 1960 Internal Security Act (ISA). The ISA allows for indefinite detention without trial or criminal charges.
The colonial roots of the ISA never sat well especially within the active and boisterous civil society of Malaysia. Recurring calls for the repeal of the ISA was finally answered in 2012. There were hopes in the Malaysian polity that the move would open further civil political discourse. Prime Minister Najib Razak underscored that the intent of the repeal was intended to “…to accommodate and realise a mature, modern and functioning democracy; to preserve public order; enhance civil liberty and maintain racial harmony.”
ISA’s shadow over the Malaysian political and legal landscape nonetheless set the stage for a succession of legislation aimed to purportedly replace and refine the intent of the ISA. The Security Offences (Special Measures Act 2012 or SOSMA was passed for the “purpose of maintaining public order and security”.Three years later, in the wake of a foiled attack against targets in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2015 (POTA) was introduced, which empowers Malaysian authorities to detain terror suspects sans trial for two years. One controversial aspect of the POTA is disallowance of judicial review, relegating oversight of detentions to a special Prevention of Terrorism Board. Even the election of a new coalition government in Malaysia, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) has not changed the legal structure in Malaysia. The PH-led moratorium was lifted by the end of 2018, citing issues of “national security, public order and race relations”.
Compared to Indonesia, the institutionalised nature of Malaysian internal security laws limits counterterrorism initiatives as a largely law enforcement operation. Neither does Malaysia confront the sheer numbers of returning FTF and their kin as seen in the Indonesian case. Kuala Lumpur however cannot be complacent, as their nationals have taken a leading role in incidents such as the Battle for Marawi. Speculation is rife but largely unproven that the IS core funnelled money to the MG. Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian teacher, has been characterised as a major financier and recruiter of IS sympathetic cells. Before he was killed in Marawi, Mahmud was credited with transferring around USD 600,000 to Philippine-based militants. This sum sent over to Mindanao is important not for its monetary value but as an indicator of extant links among violent extremists in Southeast Asia.
Philippines still muddling through the post-Bangsamoro era
Characterising the termination of fighting in Marawi as cessation of military operations highlights the stark reality of years of reconstruction and rehabilitation facing the Philippines. Had the MG not decided to lay siege to the city, the prevailing insecurity in Marawi and its environs would have likely led to the emergence of other armed groups. The built environment was a favourable environment for an urban insurrection and cannot attributed to IS influence. Local political economy built on illicit commerce led to the creation of a proverbial perfect theatre for a protracted urban battle.
Manila has highlighted that the situation is under control in a fact belied with the continued declaration of martial law. To date, the declaration has been renewed until the end of 2019, with no respite in the short-term expected.There are however, reasons to be hopeful as the Bangsamoro transcended its status as a socio-political identity to a new formal political entity.
On January 21, 2019, the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) was ratified through a plebiscite. The ‘Yes’ campaign captured around 1.5 million votes against roughly 199,000 ‘No’ votes. A new Bangsamoro region replaced the now-defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The BOL was the culmination of the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which signed by the government of Philippines and the MILF.
However, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) has had a shaky start. One civil society member recalled how the appointment process for youth representatives was “haphazard” with appointees stripped of their designation at the last minute. Another issue raised was the domination of the BTA members from the Maguindanao ethnic group, which was just one of the thirteen Filipino Muslim ethnic groups in Mindanao.
High expectations over what the BARMM can deliver does not match the intricate details that need to be resolved in the short-term. The stated priority for the BTA is to address the “daily needs” of residents of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). Delays in infrastructure projects can be the catalyst for frustration the Bangsamoro as a whole. A pessimistic assessment warned that if there are no meaningful projects completed in six months, residents of the BARMM may take that as a “tipping point” for the resurgence of anti-government sentiments. The advocacy for the BARMM has reversed from a grassroots effort to a more top-down arrangement.
From a security point of view, the multitude of security mechanisms may prove paralysing to the BARMM. The command and control arrangements for the Cotabato City police force is an example. Units in the city are under the control of Police Regional Office (PRO) XII, a PRO adjacent to the now defunct PRO of the ARMM. At present, police officers in Cotabato City are given the option of joining the soon to be established PRO-BARMM or return to their ‘mother unit’. Police officers strongly refused the PRO-BARMM for fear that it would be much “politicised”. There are also no overt measures to disband private militias in the BARMM’s jurisdiction.
If the current mood in Cotabato City, the de facto capital of the Bangsamoro and the BTA was to be the gauge, the question is no longer, whether there will be frustration and impatience at the grassroots level. The challenge now for the BTA is to manage frustrations in the short-term while building sustainable institutions by 2022. Mindanao is no stranger to how violent extremist groups can thrive and exploit governance vacuums. As BARMM Chief Minister Murad remarked, “the success of our [Bangsamoro] government is the best antithesis to violent radicalism”.
Detecting future ‘Marawis’
Aside from the possibility of bungling the Bangsamoro process, it is jarring to note that the Philippines continues to lack a cohesive, national-level countering violent extremism (CVE) strategy. This is in spite of the multiplicity of threats in the country. As the most basic level, measures used to assess the level of violent extremism remain premised on security-related indicators.
There is little appreciation of the potential for other non-security indicators to detect and then subsequently confront violent extremism. Measure to detect the lack of effective governance and the occurrence of clan conflict appear to be the most promising indicators for future ‘Marawis’ in central Mindanao. Recruitment remains a clan-based and community-level activity. More than two years after Marawi, the socioeconomic and political context that gave rise to the Maute Group remains largely unchanged.
Specifically, detecting any future ‘Marawis’ would also entail monitoring non-traditional measures that may not be directly related to CVE or security initiatives. Statistics on municipal or even village-level economic inequality, out-of-school-youth, and even incidents of financial fraud can be brought together as early-warning indicators. Reliance on security sector-measures such as the number of violent incidents has limited early-warning utility. It may be more productive to look at other indicators such as the responsiveness of local governments, poverty levels, and the effectiveness of educational institutions.
With decades of violent extremism in the Philippines, it is very striking that suicide attacks are do not figure more often in the repertoire of Filipino militants. The five month-long siege in Marawi saw the conspicuous absence of suicide IEDs and VBIEDs. The Battle for Marawi was an existential fight to the finish for the Maute Group and its allies, fulfilling the apocalyptic narrative often heard during the final days of IS occupation in Raqqa. If Marawi was not enough to prompt the Maute Group to use extreme measures such as VBIEDs, then it is hard to think of a conflict that would be of even higher stakes.
Thus, the suicide attack by a Filipino Muslim from the Tausug ethnic group raises more questions than answers. As mentioned earlier, two suicide bombers carried out an attack in the Philippines, targeting the headquarters of 1st BCT in Indanan, Sulu. One of the suicide attackers was later identified as Norman Lasuca, a 23 year-old resident of Jolo, now considered the first Filipino to be involved in a suicide attack against Philippine security forces. It remains unclear if the attack is wholly “locally initiated” or if it had operational support from foreign terrorist fighters. It has taken time for other important details regarding the June attack to emerge. The yield, main charge of the explosive, and detonating mechanism suggests that the device was locally produced.
Nevertheless, it is clear that analyses that attribute a Tausug suicide attack solely to foreign influences risks missing other causal factors. The Indanan suicide bombings occurred while Mindanao is currently under martial law. Lasuca’s suicide attack may be a rediscovery of the 19th century practice of “parang sabil” of suicide attacks against Spanish and American colonial soldiers rather than the adoption of 21st century ISIS propaganda. It must be stressed that after the American colonial period, Tausug community leaders were able to delegitimise the practice of parang sabil. Rixhon notes that ritual suicide was virtually eliminated from 1915–1974.
Tracing the indigenous practices that may have motivated Lasuca motivation could be the first step to devising similarly indigenous CVE programmes. Doing the sabil in the 19th century needed the consent of kin and community leaders. Lasuca’s deadly choice could have been pre-empted at several points, by engaging vulnerable communities and their traditional leadership structures. The return of parang sabil came with the first generation of Moro secessionist rebels, in response to the 1974 sacking of Jolo by the Marcos-era Philippine military. If proven linked to the practice of parang sabil, Lasuca’s attack may be indicative of its reappearance in 21st century Mindanao. It could be viewed as a confrontational response to the perceived oppression imposed by the imposition of martial law since 2017.
Stakeholders must be cognisant of the potential of indigenous Filipino practices fusing with more global jihadist discourse. The colonial roots of the sabil may find fertile ground in other Southeast Asian states such as Indonesia and Malaysia, who also have similar historical baggage.
Watching out for other extremisms
It must be stressed however, that the diffusion of the local is not limited only to a certain faith. The rediscovery of indigenous practices may spring from other non-Muslim faiths, folk practices, and secular ideologies such as communism. Populist discourses as seen in the electoral results in Southeast Asia suggest the emergence of more empowered individuals.
Violent extremist is no longer limited an organised group setting. Instead of violent extremisms, Southeast Asia may be on the cusp of other violent extremisms. In the West, there is a resurgence of right-wing nationalism in response to growing inequality. The same confrontational dynamic is seen with the rise of ‘incel’ violence targeting those deemed as feminist or supportive of the wider women’s rights movement.
Rather than reinventing the wheel, CVE may be more effective drawing from other disciplines to confront these other extremisms. Programmes designed to reduce and mitigate juvenile delinquency could have wide applications in challenging the rise of right-wing groups. In the same manner, incel rage could be redirected through mental health and psychosocial interventions.
Southeast Asian states confronting violent extremism cannot afford to limit their focus on returning foreign fighters from Syria or those claiming jihadist affiliations. The distinct histories of Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have led to also unique socio-political circumstances that allow sustain protracted conflict. As seen in the discussion above, kinetic operations whether by the military or the police drives the counterterrorism strategies of Southeast Asian states.
The Battle for Marawi is only a symptom of the roots of violent extremism in the region. Sans the emergence of a globalised terrorist narrative as espoused by IS, local conditions incentivise the emergence of non-state armed groups. Non-military and non-kinetic approaches need to be further emphasised and coordinated through mechanisms such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Generic “intelligence exchanges” also fail to break away from the securitised emphasis of current counterterrorism strategies.
Continuity is the unifying principle behind some Southeast Asian states’ counterterrorism strategies. Often it is the emergence of major crisis that fuels strategic innovation and multilateral collaboration. One can only hope that Southeast Asian countries act on the diffused threat posed by terrorism and seize the initiative rather than being reactive.
Joseph Franco specialises in countering violent extremism (CVE) and counterinsurgency. As Research Fellow with the Centre of Excellence for National Security at RSIS, Joseph examines terrorist networks in maritime Southeast Asia and best practices in CVE. He obtained his MSc in International Relations at RSIS through an ASEAN Graduate Scholarship. He is a frequent resource person for international media such as the BBC, Channel News Asia, Deutsche Welle, and TIME.
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 Joseph Franco, “Assessing the Feasibility of a ‘Wilayah Mindanao’” Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol. 11, No. 4 (2017).
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 Danial Dzulkifly, “Gobind: Sedition Act, Poca, Pota, Sosma will only be used when public order is under threat” Malay Mail, 03 December 2018. Accessed at https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2018/12/03/gobind-sedition-act-poca-pota-sosma-will-only-be-used-when-public-order-is/1699474.
 The Straits Times, “Malaysian teacher Mahmud Ahmad seen as new ’emir’ of pro-ISIS militants in South-east Asia” The Straits Times, 16 October 2017. Accessed at https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/malaysian-teacher-mahmud-ahmad-seen-as-new-emir-of-pro-isis-militants-in-south-east.
 James Lewis, “The Battle of Marawi: Small team lessons learned for the close fight” The COVE, 26 November 2018. Accessed at https://cove.army.gov.au/article/the-battle-marawi-small-team-lessons-learned-the-close-fight; and Joseph Franco, “The Battle for Marawi: Urban Warfare Lessons for the AFP” Security Reform Initiative Commentaries, 04 October 2017. Accessed at http://www.securityreforminitiative.org/2017/10/04/battle-marawi-urban-warfare-lessons-afp.
 International Alert, “War and Identity”; and Franco, “The Battle for Marawi: Urban Warfare Lessons for the AFP”.
 Martin Petty, “Philippine Congress extends Mindanao martial law until end-2019” Reuters, 12 December 2018. Accessed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-security/philippine-congress-extends-mindanao-martial-law-until-end-2019-idUSKBN1OB0IR.
 Martin Petty, “Philippine referendum returns big ‘yes’ vote on Bangsamoro self-rule” Reuters, 26 January 2019. Accessed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-politics-autonomy/philippine-referendum-returns-big-yes-vote-on-bangsamoro-self-rule-idUSKCN1PK068.
 Under the CAB, a new sub-regional political entity will be created that would allow for the meaningful exercise of political autonomy in Mindanao. The BOL was first slated for ratification in 2015 but was derailed by the 2015 Mamasapano Massacre that saw the killing of 44 police commandos in a misencounter with MILF forces.
 Author interview with local NGO organiser employed by international NGO in Cotabato City (March 2019).
 Author interview with a BTA member with an academic background in Cotabato City (March 2019).
 Author interview with local NGO organiser employed by international NGO.
 Author interview with a BTA member formerly working in public works projects in Cotabato City (March 2019).
 Author interview with a BARMM consultant in Cotabato City (March 2019).
 Author interview with journalist based in Cotabato City (March 2019).
 Author interview with a BTA member from the legal profession in Cotabato City (March 2019).
 John Unson, “Ebrahim: Success of BARMM best antidote to extremism”, Philippine Star, 29 March 2019. Accessed at https://www.philstar.com/nation/2019/03/29/1905609/ebrahim-success-barmm-best-antidote-extremism.
 Joseph Franco, “Indigenous roots of the ‘first’ Filipino suicide bombing” Lowy Interpreter, 01 August 2019. Accessed at https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/indigenous-roots-first-filipino-suicide-bombing.
 Author interview with staff officer assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team (July 2019).
 Gerard Rixhon (ed.), Voices from Sulu: A Collection of Tausug Oral Traditions (Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University, 2010).