IS threat in Southeast Asia raises alarm in Washington
WASHINGTON - Southeast Asia's jihadis who fought for the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria now have a different battle closer to home in the southern Philippines. It's a scenario raising significant alarm in Washington.
The recent assault by IS-aligned fighters on the Philippine city of Marawi has left more than 300 people dead, exposing the shortcomings of local security forces and the extremist group's spreading reach.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says a long-running U.S. military operation to help Philippine forces contain extremist fighters was canceled prematurely three years ago.
Although small numbers of U.S. special forces remain, lawmakers want a bigger U.S. role, short of boots on the ground. They fear the area is becoming a new hub for Islamist fighters from Southeast Asia and beyond.