JAKARTA • Six countries - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand - yesterday agreed to strengthen cooperation to fight terrorism in the region.
All six had attended the first sub-regional meeting on foreign terrorists and cross-border terrorism in Manado, South Sulawesi.
Senior law enforcement officials from the six countries attended the one-day meeting which ended with a five-point action plan, according to a statement released by Indonesia's Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Ministry.
Two senior law enforcement sources at the meeting told Reuters news agency that agreement was also reached on more cooperation with countries in the Middle East in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.
Several countries in the Middle East, including Turkey, are to attend a summit next month to kick off cooperation across the two regions, Reuters said.
The Manado meeting took place against the backdrop of the continuing battle between Philippine government troops and militants linked to ISIS, many of them foreign fighters, in the southern Philippine city of Marawi.
In particular, the sharing of intelligence is the essence of getting ahead of this problem.
AUSTRALIA'S ATTORNEY-GENERAL GEORGE BRANDIS
There are also growing fears of militants returning home as ISIS is defeated on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria.
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, said the statement from the Indonesian security ministry.
They also agreed to encourage cooperation between governments and companies that provide social media services, video file sharing and messaging. The other points of action included fighting terror financing, stepping up cooperation on immigration issues and undertaking 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.
"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."
The ongoing crisis in Marawi began on May 23 when hundreds of gunmen from groups linked to ISIS stormed the mainly Muslim city of 200,000. Weeks of fighting have left much of Marawi in ruins.
Earlier this month, 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 part of an ISIS aim to set up a caliphate in the region, stretching from Indonesia to the Philippines.
"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 Ipac report.