World

Three countries to combat Marawi threat

Philippines, Indonesia and M'sia to join forces to stop ISIS infiltration


The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia have pledged to work together to stop the flow of terrorist funds and illicit arms, amid fears that prolonged fighting in the Philippine town of Marawi could lead to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) infiltrating the region.

The three countries yesterday issued a joint statement reaffirming their desire to jointly develop and implement counter-terrorism measures and strategies, after foreign ministers and security officials from the countries met at a security summit in Manila.

ACTION PLAN

The countries agreed to work on an "action plan" to stop the flow of terrorist financing and "contain the spread of terrorism and terrorism-related content in cyberspace, particularly social media".

They also agreed to share intelligence on terror threats and push for ways to stop arms smuggling and movements among militants across their borders.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters details would be hammered out at a meeting of senior Asean officials in August and a final "action plan" should be ready when Asean's foreign ministers meet in October.

At the conference, the ministers discussed ways "to counter the extremist narrative" through education and community engagement, and to address the root causes of extremism, such as poverty.

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman pushed for a "formal mechanism where shared experience, information and intelligence can be translated into concrete action and follow-up".

"This is an urgent task," he said, citing the month-long stand-off in Marawi between government troops and Muslim militants with ties to the ISIS.

There are worries that militants fleeing Marawi may fan out to Malaysia, Indonesia and elsewhere in South-east Asia, and that the siege in Marawi has drawn radicals from across the region to the Philippines.

"The Philippines is like a magnet now," said Philippine military chief of staff, General Eduardo Ano, who took part in the closed-door security conference.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Indonesian President Joko Widodo spoke on the phone before the conference and "reaffirmed the need to step up operations to address threats posed by terrorism and violent extremism", Mr Duterte's spokesman Ernesto Abella said at a news briefing.

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