KUALA LUMPUR - The implementation of a peace deal between the Philippines and the country's largest Muslim rebel group will help thwart the rising influence of Islamic State jihadists in Southeast Asia, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday.
Najib, whose government is brokering negotiations between Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), cited the recent kidnapping spree of the extremist group Abu Sayyaf, whose leaders have pledged allegiance to ISIS.
READ: IS-inspired militants on offensive in southern PH
The peace accord will not only bring peace and stability in Mindanao but will also insulate Southeast Asia from threats by the militant groups, Najib said in a message read by his deputy defense minister during a meeting of Filipino and MILF officials here.
"The continuation of the peace process is also important to Malaysia and the region because of the rising influence of Daesh (ISIS)," Najib said.
"Peace in southern Philippines will be beneficial not only to the Philippines but to Malaysia and other countries in the region."
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim shared this concern, saying that there were reports of groups inspired by ISIS in Mindanao even as the group has yet to establish its presence there.
"But there are people inspired [by ISIS], and that's [what] we are working on," he said.