Aussies in thick of Filipino terror fight
AUSTRALIA is taking a leading covert role combating terrorism in the Philippines, investigating bomb attacks, sharing intelligence and hosting high- level meetings to rally regional consensus on how to combat Islamic State in the region.
In the past 12 months, the Australian Federal Police have conducted 15 counter terrorism training courses for senior local officers on everything from identifying IEDs to intelligence gathering.
Officers have also assisted in the setup of cyber security programs, helped in bomb data intelligence and actively participated in investigations including the terror bomb attack at a night market in Davao City in southern Philippines late last year that killed 15 people and injured 70 others.
They have also assisted in the tracking of militant Islamic suspects in the region.
The engagement is being seen as its biggest commitment to the regional jihadist fight since 2004 when the AFP deployed an elite squad to probe a Manila train net- work bomb plot and link a ferry fire that killed 118 people as having come from a bomb.
The AFP has also brought together counterparts of colonel or superintendent level from the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia for the first time to forge a united plan to combat the terror threat.
Last year, the Jakartabased Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict noted that while ISIS had “deepened” co- operation between extremists, law enforcement efforts remained national.
The mission is seen as vital since Filipino intelligence has pointed to the Marawi conflict having been financed by Malaysian militant Mahmud bin Ahmad, who channelled more than $ 600,000 for firearms, ammunition and food that has allowed the crisis in Marawi to go for so long.
Terrorists killed in that city are believed to include 40 nationals from Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Chechnya, Morocco, Turkey, Pakistan, Yemen and a Saudi.
Intelligence has established at least 40 Indonesians had travelled to the Philippines for jihad of which at least half went to Marawi.
Local police intelligence has also now concluded remnant members of Jemaah Islamiyah, the terror group behind the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, have also slipped into the Philippines for training under the so- called Katibah al- Muhajir, or Brigade of the Migrant, rallying militants in SouthEast Asia.
Two members were killed in Mindanao in a police gun battle in April this year.
Filipino police have praised their commitment and called for greater regional unity in the fight.