Combat seized weapons are display by Philippines army during a news conference, as government troops continue their assault against insurgents from the Maute group in Marawi city, Philippines July 4, 2017. (Reuters/Jorge Silva)
MANADO, Indonesia—Southeast Asian nations will cooperate more closely with intelligence and law enforcement authorities from the Middle East amid “grave concerns” about an elevated threat from the ISIS terrorist group in the region.
Representatives from four Southeast Asian nations, Australia and New Zealand met in the Indonesian city of Manado on Saturday to develop a response to the increased danger posed by ISIS, highlighted by the occupation of parts of the southern Philippines city of Marawi by terrorists owing allegiance to the group.
The battle has sparked alarm that as ISIS suffers reversals in Iraq and Syria, it is seeking to create a stronghold in the region, buttressed by Southeast Asian fighters returning from the Middle East and other terrorists inspired by the ultra-radical group and the Marawi conflict.
Describing the regional threat from Islamist terrorists as growing and rapidly evolving, a joint statement by the participants called for enhanced information sharing, as well as cooperation on border control, deradicalisation, law reform and countering Islamists’ prolific use of social media to plan attacks and lure recruits.
“We must face the threat together,” said Wiranto, Indonesia’s co-ordinating minister for security.
The meeting was co-hosted by Indonesia and Australia. The other participants were Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and New Zealand.
The main initiative was a law enforcement dialogue to be co-hosted by the Indonesian and Australian police forces in August bringing together key stakeholders affected by ISIS.
Two senior law enforcement sources at the Manado meeting said countries from the Middle East, including Turkey, would attend the summit to kick off cooperation across the two regions.
ISIS has a dedicated military unit made up of hundreds of Southeast Asian fighters in Syria and Iraq led by Indonesian terrorist Bahrumsyah.
According to Indonesian police, there are 510 Indonesian supporters of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, including 113 women.
About 20 Islamist fighters from Indonesia are believed by counter-terrorism authorities to be fighting in Marawi, a predominantly Muslim city on the Philippines island of Mindanao which has been a hotbed of Islamist unrest for decades and a magnet for terrorists from around the region.