Aussies in thick of Filipino ter­ror fight

Townsville Bulletin - - NATION - CHARLES MI­RANDA

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.

ON ALERT: Philip­pine sol­diers and po­lice­men man a check­point in Manila as the coun­try ramps up its fight against the IS ter­ror threat in the coun­try.

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