Al-Shabaab calls to save Burmese Muslims from ‘savage Buddhists’

Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali terror group, issues statement as Indonesia and Malaysia agree to ‘shelter’ stranded migrants for one year

Rohingya migrants sit in a boat as they’re towed closer to land by fishermen off the coast near the city of Geulumpang in Indonesia’s East Aceh district  Photo: Januar/AFP

Al-Shabaab jihadists have called on southeast Asia’s Muslims to come to the aid of Burmese migrants persecuted “at the hands of the savage Buddhists”.

In a rare statement on an issue outside of the Horn of Africa region, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali jihadist group told Muslims in Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand to “take the pivotal role in alleviating the suffering of the Muslims in Myanmar”.

“At the hands of the savage Buddhists, thousands of Muslims, including many women and children, have fled their homes and are desperately trying to reach the shores of safety, their only crime being their adherence to Islam,” the Islamist group said.

“Take matters into your own hands, help your Muslim brothers and know that this is a religious obligation upon you for which you will be held fully accountable in front of Allah on the day of judgement”.

“Welcome them, open your hearts to them before you open your homes and give shelter to the fleeing Muslims. Mobilise men, money and resources to defend the honour of the persecuted Muslims and repel the savage attacks of the polytheists.”

The statement came as Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to provide “temporary shelter” to thousands of migrants stranded at sea, on condition that the international community resettles them within a year.

As a further 400 starving migrants arrived in Indonesia after being rescued by local fishermen, the foreign ministers of Indonesia and Malaysia said they had reached the agreement, which marks the first step towards ending a regional crisis that has left the ocean scattered with overcrowded boats labelled “floating coffins”.

Anifah Aman, Malaysia’s foreign minister, said the two countries “agreed to provide them temporary shelter provided that the resettlement and repatriation process will be done in one year by the international community”.

Acehnese fishermen, right, tow a boat with Rohingya migrants off the coast of Geulumpang (AP)

“Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to those 7,000 irregular migrants at sea,” he said.

For weeks, both countries – along with Thailand – have deployed their navies to tow boats back into each other’s territory in a practice denounced by the United Nations as “human ping-pong”.

Mr Anifah said Malaysia and Indonesia “invite other countries in the region to join in this endeavour”.

Speaking before the meeting, Retno Marsudi, Indonesia’s foreign minister, said: “This irregular migration is not the problem of one or two nations. This is a regional problem which also happens in other places. This is also a global problem.”

Rescued migrants sit on an Acehnese fishing boat upon arrival in Simpang Tiga (AP)

Many of the migrants in southeast Asia are Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar and have been branded one of the world’s most persecuted peoples by the UN. Others are from Bangladesh and have sought to escape poverty.

The refusal to accept the migrants onto land has left thousands adrift for months with little or no supplies of food and water. On some boats, there have been deadly conflicts over dwindling supplies, including people being stabbed, hanged and thrown overboard during fights for food and water.

The latest batch of arrivals – about 426 – were taken ashore from their wooden boats by local fishermen in the Indonesian province of Aceh.

“They were suffering dehydration, they are weak and starving,” said Khairul Nove, head of the local Langsa Search and Rescue Agency.

One of the boats reportedly had 102 people, including 26 women and 31 children, and had been at sea for about four months.

“We ran out of food, we wanted to enter Malaysia but we were not allowed,” Ubaydul Haque, 30, a passenger, told Associated Press.

More than 3,000 migrants have swum to shore or been rescued by fishermen off Indonesia and Malaysia in the past week.

Al-Shabaab was responsible for spectacular and deadly attacks that hit football fans watching the 2010 World Cup final in a pub in Kampala, Uganda, when 74 died, and shoppers on a sunny 2013 Saturday morning in Nairobi, where 72 died at the Westgate Centre.

In April the group killed at least 147 people at Kenya’s Garissa University College.