Australia, ASEAN vow to combat Daesh

ASEAN leaders wave as they stand together during the Leaders Welcome and Family Photo at the one-off summit of 10-member ASEAN in Sydney, Australia, on Saturday. (Reuters)
Updated 19 March 2018
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Australia, ASEAN vow to combat Daesh

JAKARTA: The leaders of ASEAN countries and Australia reiterated on Sunday their commitment to combat borderless violent extremism and to work more closely to prevent the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into the region.
The leaders were concluding the ASEAN-Australia special summit, held for the first time in Sydney over the weekend.
In a joint statement dubbed the “Sydney Declaration” issued at the end of the special summit, the 11 leaders said they “unequivocally condemn in the strongest terms terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”
They also said they would enhance regional cooperation to address the root cause of conditions that contribute to the growth and spread of violent extremism and radicalization.
To cement their commitment, the 10 ASEAN member states and Australia agreed on Saturday to a joint counterterrorism pact which marks a deepened and expanded cooperation. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed by the bloc’s Secretary General, Lim Jock Hoi, and Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, and witnessed by the 10 ASEAN and Australian leaders at the end of the ASEAN-Australia counterterrorism conference.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in his speech at the forum that he appreciated Australia’s active cooperation with ASEAN in combating terrorism, citing Australia’s role in co-hosting with Indonesia in July the sub-regional counterterrorism forum involving Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Singapore and New Zealand to address borderless terrorism and the adverse impact of then-besieged Marawi in the southern Philippines.
According to a statement from the presidential palace press bureau, Widodo also welcomed the MoU signing, saying: “Based on my observation, the MoU underscores a balance between hard and soft approaches” in fighting violent extremism.
Chief of Indonesia’s counterterrorism agency, Commissioner Gen. Suhardi Alius, said Indonesia shared at the forum its experience in counterterrorism efforts such as amending the anti-terrorism law to include provisions that would criminalize Indonesian citizens’ involvement in plotting, training and traveling for terror-related purposes.
In a press release, Alius said he also shared the agency’s recent efforts to reconcile 124 former convicts with 51 survivors and family members of those who died in terror attacks in the country.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Australia sees ASEAN as an essential security partner and called for unity in the face of terror, which he said was carried out by a small minority of people who defame and blaspheme against Islam.
“They have sought to sow discord by their perverted and nihilistic interpretation of Islam, to provoke hatred between Sunni and Shia Muslims and to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims,” Turnbull said, according to a transcript.
“Our best allies in the war against this scourge are the vast majority of Muslims — around the world, around the region, here in Australia — and their leaders,” he added, mentioning Widodo, Malaysian PM Najib Razak and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, all of whom are leaders of Muslim-majority ASEAN nations.
Turnbull also highlighted the possible threats of Asian-origin Daesh fighters who are returning to the region “battle-hardened and trained.”
“It is vital for Australia and our ASEAN partners to collaborate across borders to ensure that our counterterrorism legal frameworks are robust enough to provide effective investigation, prosecution and punishment, while being flexible enough to adapt to the changing and uncertain security environment,” Turnbull said.
The counterterrorism pact includes cooperation to develop and implement counterterrorism legislation, an ASEAN-Australia workshop on using electronic evidence in terrorism and transnational crime-related investigations and prosecutions, and exchange programs for financial intelligence analysts.
Australia and the ASEAN countries will also establish regional dialogues and forums with law enforcement partners, aimed at combating the threat of Daesh-affiliated terrorists. Australia will provide a capacity-building program for ASEAN law enforcement partners on technology-enabled crime to assist in detecting and disrupting terrorist activity.


Indonesian fishermen return home after release from Philippines militants

Updated 20 September 2018
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Indonesian fishermen return home after release from Philippines militants

  • With the release of the trio, all Indonesians abducted by Filipino militants before 2018 have been released
  • Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines wil boost security cooperation in the Sulu Sea, which is a busy maritime area for fishing boats and cargo vessels transporting coal from Indonesia to the Philippines

JAKARTA: After 20 months being held hostage by militants in the southern Philippines, three Indonesian fishermen were finally reunited on Wednesday with their respective families at the Foreign Ministry.

Vice Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir handed them over from the government to their respective family representatives in a ceremony which was held without media presence.
 
"The condition on the field was getting more difficult. But we made the most of our contacts and assets on the field, and with the Philippines government support we were able to get them released,” Fachir said in a statement from the ministry. .
 
Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the Foreign Ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad, said the handover was held in private because “it was not a cause for celebration.”
 
“We are grateful for their release, but we still have two Indonesians who were abducted on Sept. 11 and we don’t want to hurt their families’ feeling,” Iqbal said.
 
The three fishermen are Hamdan bin Saleng, Sudarling bin Samansunga, and Subandi bin Sattu, who hail from Selayar and Bulukumba in South Sulawesi province. They were freed from their captors on Friday in Sulu province on the southern Philippines.
 
Rudi Wahyudin, a representative of Sattu’s family, said the family members were devastated during the 20 months Sattu was held hostage but they tried to keep their hopes up by keeping in touch with the foreign ministry to get updates of efforts to release him and his fellow fishermen.
 
“It’s normal for people in our village in Bulukumba to migrate and work abroad. Now his wife has asked Sattu to quit working overseas and find another job close to home instead,” Wahyudin said.
 
Indonesian ambassador to the Philippines, Sinyo Harry Sarundajang said the military attache and he flew to Zamboanga City to pick up the three men, after the embassy received information of their release from the West Mindanao Command.
 
“We thank President Duterte and the Philippines government for their attention and cooperation on this matter. It was a long and delicate process to release them and we had to be very careful because we didn’t want anyone to become victim in the process,” Sarundajang said at the press conference.    
 
According to the ambassador, the three men were moved and had to island-hopped to various small islands on the Sulu archipelago as their captors were avoiding the Philippine military operation.
 
The three men were working as crew members in a Malaysian fishing boat when they were abducted in the waters of Sabah in Malaysia on Jan 2017.
 
Iqbal said there are about 6,000 Indonesians working in fishing vessels in Sabah. Since 2016, there has been 34 Indonesian citizens who were kidnapped by armed militants in the southern Philippines and 13 of them were fishermen who were abducted from their vessels in the waters of Sabah.
 
With the release of the trio, all Indonesians abducted by Filipino militants before 2018 have been released.
 
“We are now working to release the two fishermen who were abducted on Sep 11. We have expressed our concerns to the Malaysian authority on the lack of security on their waters,” Iqbal said.
 
He added that Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines would boost security cooperation in the Sulu Sea between the three countries, which is a busy maritime area for fishing boats and cargo vessels transporting coal from Indonesia to the Philippines.
 
The three neighboring countries agreed in May 2016 to launch joint patrols in the area following a series of hijacking and kidnapping of Indonesian vessels and crew members. The initial maritime patrol was launched in June 2017 and was beefed up with air patrols in Oct 2017.