Philippines, US, Japan and India conduct first joint maritime drills

Vessels from the US Navy, Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Philippine Navy sail in formation at sea. (File/Reuters)
Updated 10 May 2019
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Philippines, US, Japan and India conduct first joint maritime drills

  • The four countries sailed together for the first time in the South China Sea
  • The joint exercise aims to strengthen partnerships between the four nations

MANILA: Naval vessels from the Philippines, America, India and Japan have sailed together through the South China Sea for the first time in a week-long joint maritime drill against a backdrop of rising tensions over territorial disputes in the region.

Six ships from the four countries — the US guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence, Philippine patrol ship BRP Andres Bonifacio, Indian destroyer INS Kolkata and tanker INS Shakti, and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) helicopter-carrier JS Izumo and destroyer JS Murasame — transited through international waters May 2 to 8 in a bid to promote maritime cooperation throughout a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“This combined transit exercise aims to strengthen the partnership and foster mutual understanding between participants,” the Philippine Navy said an emailed statement.

“The group sail showed the active participation of the Philippine Navy as it strengthens its relationships with allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region. This gives us another opportunity to learn from like-minded navies,” said Captain Roy Vincent Trinidad of the Philippine Navy.

The commanding officer of BRP Andres Bonifacio, Capt. Jerry Garrido Jr., said: “Our bond of friendship with regional partners is as strong as our commitment to maintain peace and stability in the region.”

The naval drills came after the Philippines’ participation in the first phase of the ASEAN-Plus Defense Ministers’ Meeting Maritime Security Field Training Exercise 2019 in Busan, Republic of Korea. Ships from the four countries transited international waters to Changi, Singapore where the second phase of the exercise will conclude.

As they crossed the South China Sea, the ships conducted formation exercises, communication drills, passenger transfers, and held a leadership exchange aboard JS Izumo.

Rear Adm. Hiroshi Egawa, JMSDF Escort Flotilla Division One Commander, said the opportunity of a combined transit exercise with the US Navy and regional partners would “build mutual understanding and trust” and serve as a way to enhance regional peace and stability.

“The ability to do various exercises (with) four different navies smoothly demonstrated (our) professionalism and high operational skills,” he said.

An official statement from the Indian Navy said the group sail was intended to “enhance maritime cooperation, synergize maritime engagements, share best practices and standardize operating procedures.”

Days prior to the exercise, the USS William P. Lawrence, along with another US Navy ship, the USS Stethem, sailed the Taiwan Straits, a move which provoked anger in China, which also denounced the sailing for two US warships close to the disputed Spratly Islands earlier this week.

 
 


‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

Updated 21 May 2019
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‘Mother of Satan’ bombs show foreign hand in Sri Lanka bombings: investigators

  • Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise
  • It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago

COLOMBO: One month after the Sri Lanka suicide attacks that killed more than 250 people, investigators have told AFP the bombers used “Mother of Satan” explosives favored by the Daesh group that are a new sign of foreign involvement.
Detectives said the back-pack bombs used in the April 21 attacks on three churches and three hotels were manufactured by local militants with Daesh expertise.
They named the explosive as triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, an unstable but easily made mixture favored by Daesh militants who call it “Mother of Satan.”
It was also used in the 2015 attacks in Paris, by a suicide bomber who hit the Manchester Arena in England in 2017 and attacks on churches in Indonesia one year ago.
Daesh has claimed the Sri Lankan bombers operated as part of its franchise. But Sri Lankan and international investigators are anxious to know just how much outside help went into the attacks that left 258 dead and 500 injured.
“The group had easy access to chemicals and fertilizer to get the raw materials to make TATP,” an official involved in the investigation told AFP.
Sri Lankan detectives say the National Thowheeth Jama’ath (NTJ), local militants blamed for the attacks, must have had foreign help to assemble the bombs.

“They would have had a face-to-face meeting to transfer this technology. This is not something you can do by watching a YouTube video,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Investigators had initially believed that C4 explosives — a favored weapon of Tamil Tiger rebels — were used, but forensic tests found TATP which causes more burning than C4.
Police have also confirmed that 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives found in January in the island’s northwest was TATP.
They are checking the travel records of the suicide bombers as well as foreign suspects to see when and where bomb-making lessons could have been staged.
“It looks like they used a cocktail of TATP and gelignite and some chemicals in the Easter attacks. They were short of the 100 kilos of raw TATP that were seized in January,” said the investigator.
Sri Lankan security forces have staged a series of raids since the bombings. Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera said Sunday that 89 suspects are in custody.
Army chief Mahesh Senanayake said last week that at least two suspects have been arrested in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, underscoring the international link.
On April 26, six militants, three widows of the suicide bombers and six of their children were killed at an NTJ safe house near the eastern coastal town of Kalmunai.
Police found large quantities of chemicals and fertilizer there that was probably meant to make bombs, authorities said.
The government has admitted that Indian warnings of the looming attacks in early April were ignored.
But President Maithripala Sirisena has said eight countries are helping the investigation. A US Federal Bureau of Investigation team is in Sri Lanka and Britain, Australia and India have provided forensic and technical support.
China offered a fleet of vehicles to bolster the mobility of the security forces tracking down militants.

The Sri Lankan who led the attacks, Zahran Hashim, was known to have traveled to India in the months before he became one of the suicide bombers.
Moderate Muslims had warned authorities about the radical cleric who first set off alarm bells in 2017 when he threatened non-Muslims.
He was one of two bombers who killed dozens of victims at Colombo’s Shangri-La hotel on April 21.
Army chief Senanayake said Hashim had traveled to Tamil Nadu state in southern India and been in contact with extremists there.
Hashim, one of seven bombers who staged the attacks, also appeared in an Daesh group video that claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Another bomber who was meant to have hit a fourth hotel, has been named as Abdul Latheef Jameel who studied aviation engineering in Britain and Australia.
Authorities in the two countries are investigating whether he was radicalized whilst abroad.
Jameel blew himself up when confronted at a hideout after the attacks.