Indonesia protest
A deadly attack in Jakarta, Indonesia in January 2016 cast a spotlight on a shadowy Southeast Asian faction of the Islamic State (Isis) group and offered new evidence of the spread of Isis franchises.MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty

Terrorist group Islamic State (Isis) has launched a newspaper aimed at recruiting jihadist fighters from south-east Asia.

The Al-Fatihin newspaper, published in the Malay language, is being distributed in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, southern Thailand and southern Philippines, according to the Malay Online.

The Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) noted that the first edition of Al-Fatihin was published on 20 June, to coincide with the holy month of Ramadan. According to researchers from RSIS, Jasminder Singh and Muhammad Bin Jani, the 20-page edition focused on the significance of Ramadan, jihad and the rituals of fasting.

Speaking about the implications of a Malay language Isis newspaper, Singh and Jani said: "Invoking a broader Malay language and identity not only helps in disseminating IS propaganda, it also reinforces Isis ideology and efforts to unite all jihadists. Al-Fatihin buttresses IS messages calling on militant groups in Indonesia and the Philippines to unite and pledge their allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi."

Two days after the newspaper was launched, Isis terrorists released a video declaring the Philippines as its caliphate and calling for south-east Asian militants to travel to the Philippines if they were unable to get to Syria. In the 20-minute video, jihadists from Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines take turns speaking to the camera to pledge their support for Isis, the Star reported.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's Home Ministry warned on 11 July that strict action would be taken against those caught producing or distributing the Malay language Isis newspaper. Deputy Minister Datuk Nur Kazlan Mohamad stressed that the publication is illegal in Malaysia and that those caught with it would be penalised and used to determine how the newspaper was making its way into the country.

According to the Malay Online, Mohamad said: "It is impossible to import the newspaper because the Royal Malaysia Customs monitors all forms of publication that enter the country. We will find out whether the print version is distributed or it is a version downloaded from the Internet."

Researchers at RSIS have noted that the first three pages of the Al-Fatihin, which means "the Conquerors" in Arabic, contains advice from the former al-Qaeda leader Abu Hamza al-Muhajir on how fighters can continue their jihadist activities, search for martyrdom, as well as kill and crucify disbelievers. The publication's tagline is, "The newspaper for Malay-speaking migrants in the Islamic State".

Singh and Jani said in their report about the newspaper: "Al-Fatihin's tagline drives the point that, no matter the differences and nuances in language, identity and origins, south-east Asian jihadists have a common logos and as such, all Malay-speaking jihadists should act as one."