Australia, SE Asia join forces to choke militant financing

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KUALA LUMPUR Australia and South-east Asia have joined forces to choke financing for militant networks, amid recent concerns about the Islamic State group gaining a foothold in the region.

The militants seized the southern Philippine city of Marawi in May, a move Philippine officials and analysts say was part of the group's plan to establish a base in the region.

The new alliance aims to disrupt the funding of militant groups through enhanced financial intelligence sharing, Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said yesterday in Kuala Lumpur, where he is attending a counter-terrorism conference.

"The stability and security of South-east Asia is of critical importance to Australia," said Mr Keenan, who also assists Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull on counter-terrorism issues.

Canberra "is committed to defeating the threat posed by terrorist groups, including ISIL, in the region," he added, referring to the Islamic State by another name.

Mr Keenan said under the new initiative - endorsed by representatives from across the region - participating states will "directly target and disrupt the funding lifeline of terrorist groups" by denying them access to the international financial system and other sources of funding.

Australia's financial intelligence agency Austrac and the Philippines' Anti-Money Laundering Council will lead the group.

The creation of the alliance - named the South East Asia Counter Terrorism Financing Working Group - is the latest effort to enhance regional cooperation against militants.- AFP