An Indonesian fighter in Syria. (YouTube screengrab)
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As Sunni Islamist rebels surge from Syria into Iraq, security officials in Southeast Asia and Australia worry the conflict is radicalizing a new generation of militants, who are being influenced to an unprecedented degree by social media.In the 1990s, several hundred Indonesian, Malaysian and Philippine Muslims trained with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and brought their skills and ideology home, inspiring attacks such as the 2002 Bali nightclub bombing that killed 202 people. At least 30 Malaysians and 56 Indonesians are estimated by security officials to have gone to fight in Syria, although security analysts say the true number is likely higher. Official estimates of 236 militants from Australia, Malaysia and Indonesia would account for nearly 9 percent of the foreign fighters from countries excluding those four.Mohd Lotfi Ariffin, a Malaysian who says he is fighting in Syria, regularly posts pictures and videos of himself and other militants to his nearly 19,000 Facebook followers.
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