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Asean defence ministers meet as ISIS fighters return to Asia

Asean defence ministers are meeting today to map out a response to possible new threats posed by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as some of its fighters return to Asia.

Their two-day meeting at a former US airbase north of Manila comes as Philippine security forces remain locked in combat with some 30 remaining Muslim militants and their kin in Marawi city.

Counter-terrorism experts have warned that Asia's cities are facing a more lethal incarnation of ISIS, as the group returns to its roots as a guerilla force, after blows in the Middle East and in the Philippines.

A US-backed coalition of Arab and Kurdish forces last week retook Raqqa, in Syria, marking the symbolic demise of the ISIS caliphate.

Days later, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared Marawi "free of terrorists' influence", after security forces killed two top pro-ISIS extremists.

Many ISIS veterans from Asia are expected to head back to their "wilayats", or provinces", in South Asia and South-east Asia to recruit more followers, sow violence, and inspire lone wolf attacks.

These are among the new threats expected to be discussed during the 11th Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM), set for today and tomorrow, at the Clark special economic zone.

Singapore's Ministry of Defence said in a statement that Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen will speak about "Singapore's plans to continue to strengthen regional counter-terrorism cooperation, and promulgate confidence-building measures to enhance maritime and aviation safety".

The Philippines will also be handing the ADMM chairmanship to Singapore tomorrow. - THE STRAITS TIMES

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