PETALING JAYA: Indonesia has sought an urgent meeting with Malaysia and the Philippines over the increasing threat of terrorism following the escalation in deadly incursions by militants in Mindanao.
The tripartite conference will serve as a platform for the countries to brainstorm and share intelligence.
This is in the wake of the 16th Asia Security Summit from June 2 to 4 which warned of heightened terrorist activity in Southeast Asia, especially by radicals supportive of the extremist Islamic State (IS) outfit.
Among the major concerns aired was that IS militants losing in Syria and Iraq were moving their operations to Southeast Asia.
They are believed to target vulnerable local Muslims, especially in southern Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.
The Philippine Inquirer today reported Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as saying that Jakarta had requested for the conference to discuss action plans to stop terrorism.
He said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had expressed concern over developments in Mindanao which had over the years become a refuge for fugitives from Indonesia and Malaysia.
“The Indonesian foreign minister is proposing a meeting, a small conference, where we’ll be able to talk about the situation and what we can do together with Malaysia.”
He said the two neighbouring countries had expressed a desire to help resolve the conflict in Mindanao, particularly the incursion in Marawi City in which their nationals were actively participating.
They had already forged a maritime security agreement with the Philippines last year, which allowed Malaysian and Indonesian law enforcers to pursue fleeing criminals in Philippine territorial waters and vice versa, the report said.
Cayetano was quoted as saying that his government had “very good conversations” with the two countries over the last 10 months and the Philippines would respond to Jakarta’s proposal soon, maybe even “in a day or two”.
According to Cayetano, President Rodrigo Duterte’s warnings about Southeast Asian countries becoming terrorist targets had come true.
“Unfortunately, we (the Philippines) were first. We want to cooperate very well with Indonesia and Malaysia so they won’t also suffer at the hands of extremists.”
The report also quoted Otso Iho, a senior analyst with Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre, as saying that Mindanao was “the primary area in the region where Islamist militant groups are still able to operate with some freedom of operation, run training camps and conduct frequent attacks”.
“It’s also the location where the vast majority of Southeast Asian groups that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State are based,” the analyst added.
Meanwhile, CNN Philippines today quoted Cayetano as saying that IS is already in the Philippines despite military officials claiming that the local Maute rebel outfit was still trying to get recognition from the Middle-East-based terror network.
The Maute group launched deadly attacks in Marawi beginning May 23 in an attempt to take over the city and make it an Islamist stronghold.
Cayetano said money from IS was helping to fund local terrorist operations in southern Philippines.
“What I’m saying is that we see the money. We see the high-calibre weapons, high-powered weapons. We see also the IS flags. So, at this point in time, it’s more than an audition.
“It’s true and correct that IS is in the Philippines. If we don’t act proactively, aggressively and quickly, it will spread.”