Nations agree to boost fight against IS in Southeast Asia

By on July 29, 2017


MANADO, Indonesia—A six-nation summit co-hosted by Indonesia and Australia agreed Saturday to set up a forum to strengthen co-operation between intelligence services to counter extremist threats in Southeast Asia.

Security ministers and officials from Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and New Zealand held a one-day meeting in Manado, the capital of Indonesia’s North Sulawesi province, focusing on the Islamic State group attack on the southern Philippine city of Marawi.

Indonesia’s top security minister, Wiranto, told a news conference that the six countries agreed to establish the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Forum to strengthen information sharing and co-operation between law enforcement and intelligence services.

The Marawi occupation has raised fears that the Islamic State group’s violent ideology has taken root in the Philippines’ restive south and could destabilize neighbouring countries. More than 600 people have been killed in the conflict, including foreign fighters, and the city has been devastated by government air strikes against the militants. Indonesia and Malaysia also face the threat of citizens who went to Syria and Iraq to fight with IS returning home and carrying out attacks.

“We cannot keep silent because terrorism has become a real threat to humanity,” said Wiranto, who uses one name. “Not a single country is free from the threat of terrorism and therefore this threat must be faced together.”

He said immigration procedures should also be strengthened to prevent militants from travelling in the region.

Australian Attorney General George Brandis said in his opening speech that the conflict in Marawi “reminds us in the most immediate possible way of the urgency and the proximity of the threat that is faced by all of us.”