Indonesia and Australia co-host six-nation meeting to address threat posed by foreign fighters

Indonesian's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto (right) meets New Zealand's Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee.
Indonesian's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto (right) meets New Zealand's Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee.PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA - A counter-terrorism meeting jointly hosted by Indonesia and Australia on Saturday (July 29) has come up with a five-point plan to address the threat posed by foreign fighters.

Senior law enforcement officials from Malaysia, the Philippines, New Zealand and Brunei attended the one-day meeting held in Manado, North Sulawesi.

It comes as Philippine government troops continue to battle militants linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), many of them foreign fighters, who tried to seize the southern Philippine city of Marawi more than two months ago.

The six countries agreed to set up a forum on foreign terrorist fighters to help strengthen cooperation on information-sharing and that between law enforcement officials and intelligence agencies, according to a statement by Indonesia's Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs on Saturday.

They also agreed to encourage cooperation between governments and companies that provide social media services, video file sharing, and messaging.

The other three points of action are to strengthen cooperation among the countries' immigration offices, step up the fight against terror financing, and do comparative studies on terrorism in their respective countries.

"We have resolved today that this meeting will not be a one-off but would be the first of a series of meetings," Australia's Attorney-General George Brandis said in a press briefing after the meeting, adding that the six participating countries agreed to build capacity together.

"The capacity building is primarily the sharing of information, intelligence, knowledge, techniques. In particular the sharing of intelligence is the essence of getting ahead of this problem," he said.

The ongoing crisis in Marawi began on May 23 when hundreds of gunmen from groups linked to the ISIS stormed the mainly Muslim city of 200,000. Weeks of fighting have reduced half of Marawi to ruins.

Last week, the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (Ipac) said in a report that the terrorist network responsible for the ongoing siege in Marawi had urged militants to attack targets in Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, South Korea, Japan and China.

The network, run by Bahrumsyah, a young Indonesian fighter in Syria, and Malaysian former university lecturer Mahmud Ahmad, recruited fighters and carried out an audacious bid to seize Marawi as it seesk to set up a caliphate.

"The Marawi operations received direct funding from ISIS central and reveal a chain of command that runs from Syria through the Philippines to Indonesia and beyond," according to the report released last week.