Amid the ongoing offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the Islamic State (Isis) stronghold of Mosul, Malaysia's defence minister has warned that Southeast Asia needs to take proactive measures to guard their territories from fleeing militants.
Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Monday (17 October) that he has received intelligence on possible escape plans of IS (Daesh) militants, who are being attacked by Iraqi forces outside Mosul. He said that the militants in Iraq and Syria are expected to flee to other countries like Malaysia.
"It [Fleeing] has not started yet because the offensive only started today. So intelligence have informed me and also international intelligence have informed me that the numbers are not going to be small.
"Either they go back to their countries of origin- whether to France or other countries - or they find save havens in certain regions. So we have to be very proactive," the minister warned while speaking to reporters outside the parliament.
Channel NewsAsia quoted his as saying: "We're unsure of the numbers just yet because the offensive hasn't really started in full but we have to take proactive measures to make sure in the event that the numbers are big in our region, the threat that we face, is also faced by our own leadership in Asean."
Earlier in the day, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the battle of Mosul was ongoing and a decisive battle could happen soon.
"The time of victory has come and operations to liberate Mosul have started," al-Abadi reportedly said on state television. He added that his "brave Iraqi army with the national police" – who are the ones fighting the battle to liberate Mosul – will be the first ones to enter the city "not others".
Mosul has been under IS control for the past two years. Backed by the government, the Iraqi army is now aggressively fighting against the militants to drive them out of the city.