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ASEAN to beef up counterterrorism cooperation after deadly MSU blast

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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) vowed to strengthen regional cooperation to counter terrorism in the wake of the deadly explosion at Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City that killed four and injured dozens last Sunday.

The foreign ministers of the 10 ASEAN member states issued a statement on Friday condemning what it described as a “heinous terrorist attack” on Dec. 3.

“We stand in solidarity and are ready to work with the government and people of the Philippines during this difficult time,” it read.

“We also reaffirm our commitment to continue, strengthen, and enhance regional counterterrorism cooperation to prevent recurrence of terrorist incidents in the future.”

The foreign ministers extended deepest condolences to the bereaved families and affirmed support for the country’s efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

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Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it is looking forward to working closely with the country’s ASEAN neighbors to share actionable intelligence to prevent future terrorist attacks.

“We are grateful for the solidarity shown by the ASEAN community. While we have started our efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, we welcome any future assistance that the ASEAN may extend to further enhance intelligence to prevent any similar incident from happening again,” DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano said in a message to the media.

“Rest assured, we are committed to establishing peace and order in our beloved country.”

The Philippines is a member of ASEAN. The other members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Malaysia and Indonesia, two nearest ASEAN neighbors of the Philippines, have had close collaboration with Manila in terms of addressing terrorism as the three countries shared concerns over threats of extremist activities.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in September expressed support for the peace process in Mindanao and said it “must succeed not only for the benefit of Malaysia and the Philippines, but also for the entire region.”

Malaysia was willing to provide assistance in capacity building and socio-economic development of the Bangsamoro community to be able to contribute to its success, Ibrahim said.

Four people were killed when a bombing occurred at the gym of the MSU during a Sunday mass on Dec. 2. The Islamic State claimed responsibility over the incident, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a counter-terrorism threat intelligence organization that tracks the online activity of extremist groups.

Two suspects, including a former MSU student, were already identified by the country’s military.

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