SE Asia braces for returning ISIS fighters

MANADO, Indonesia­—Indonesia and Australia on Saturday called for stronger cooperation in counter-terrorism as the region braces for the return of foreign militants fighting in the Middle East. 

In a one-day gathering in North Sulawesi of six nations including Malaysia, the Philippines, New Zealand and Brunei, ministers discussed terrorism in Southeast Asia and fears over Islamic State unrest in the Philippines, where government forces are pitted against Islamist gunmen holed up in Marawi City.

“Global terrorism is that lethal threat to all of our societies and with the collapse of the caliphate in the Middle East, the return of foreign terrorist fighters to our region and the increasing prevalence of cross border terrorism... [the threat] is becoming more severe, not less,” Australian Attorney-General George Brandis told a post-meeting press conference.

Indonesian chief security minister Wiranto said the delegations had agreed to hold regular meetings to allow information to be shared and to establish a database of militants to keep track of their movements.

“We will also push for a cooperation with companies that provide social media services as well as video sharing and messaging service,” Wiranto said. 

Indonesia recently announced restrictions on the popular messaging app Telegram after claiming the platform had been used frequently by radicals to spread information and propaganda. 

Parts of Southeast Asia have long struggled with Islamic militancy, with hundreds of radicals from the region flocking to join IS in Iraq and Syria.

Topics: Southeast Asia , Indonesia , Australia , Malaysia , Philippines , New Zealand , Brunei , counter-terrorism , ISIS fighters , terrorism
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