IS ‘growing threat’ to SE Asia
Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines launch joint sea patrols
WASHINGTON, June 19, (AP): Southeast Asia’s jihadis who fought by the hundreds for the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria now have a different battle closer to home in the southern Philippines. It’s a scenario raising significant alarm in Washington.
The recent assault by IS-aligned fighters on the Philippine city of Marawi has left more than 300 people dead, exposing the shortcomings of local security forces and the extremist group’s spreading reach in a region where counterterrorism gains are coming undone.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress last week that a longrunning US military operation to help Philippine forces contain extremist fighters was canceled prematurely three years ago. Small numbers of US special forces remain in an “advise and assist” role, and the US is providing aerial surveillance to help the Philippines retake Marawi, an inland city of more than 200,000 people.
But lawmakers, including from President Donald Trump’s Republican Party, want a bigger US role, short of boots on the ground. They fear the area is becoming a new hub for Islamist fighters from Southeast Asia and beyond.
“I don’t know that ISIS are directing operations there but they are certainly trying to get fighters into that region,” said Republican Sen Joni Ernst of Iowa, using another acronym for the group. “We need to address the situation. It should not get out of control.”
US intelligence and counterterrorism officials note that IS has publicly accepted pledges from various groups in the Philippines. In a June 2016 video, it called on followers in Southeast Asia to go to the Philippines if they cannot reach Syria.
About 40 foreigners, mostly from neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia, have been among 500 involved in fighting in Marawi, the Philippine military says. Reports indicate at least one Saudi, a Chechen and a Yemeni were killed. In all, more than 200 militants have died in the standoff, now in its fourth week.
Video obtained by The Associated Press from the Philippine military indicates an alliance of local Muslim fighters, aligned with IS, is coordinating complex attacks. They include the Islamic State’s purported leader in Southeast Asia: Isnilon Hapilon, a Filipino on Washington’s list of most-wanted terrorists, with a $5 million bounty on his head.
US officials are assessing whether any of the estimated 1,000 Southeast Asians who traveled to Iraq and Syria in recent years are fighting in Catholic-majority Philippines. They fear ungoverned areas in the mostly Muslim region around Marawi could make the area a terror hub, as in the 1990s.
Then, the Philippines was a base of operations for al-Qaeda leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, who plotted in 1994-95 to blow up airliners over the Pacific. The plot was foiled. But the same men were instrumental in the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Other nations share the fear. Singapore recently warned of IS exerting a radicalizing influence “well beyond” what al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah ever mustered. Jemaah Islamiyah carried out major terror attacks around the region in the 2000s. IS already has been linked to attacks in Indonesia and Malaysia, and foiled plots in Singapore, this past year.
This month, Mattis told the region’s defense chiefs that “together we must act now to prevent this threat from growing.” In Congress this past week, he stressed intelligence sharing and nations like Singapore
Deng Ming, deputy director of the National Narcotics Control Commission, said that U-47700 and three other synthetic drugs — MT-45, PMMA, and 4,4’-DMAR — would be added to China’s list of controlled substances as of July 1. (AP)
South Korea scraps plants:
South Korea, one of the world’s largest nuclear electricity producers, will scrap plans to add nuclear power plants, its president said Monday, signaling a shift in decades of reliance on nuclear energy.
President Moon Jae-in said
sharing the burden, rather than deploying US troops.
Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines launched coordinated maritime patrols on Monday to intensify their fight against Islamic militants who have laid siege to a southern Philippine city. Defense ministers and military chiefs from the three countries launched the patrols in the Indonesian city of Tarakan in northern Borneo, just across the border from Sabah, Malaysia. Indonesia’s military chief, Gen Gatot Nurmantyo, said Maritime Command Centers were also opened in the cities of Tawau in Malaysia and Bongao in the Philippines. The information and intelligence sharing centers establish designated sea lanes for ships in the seas along the countries’ borders to prevent Islamic State group-aligned militants in the southern Philippines from fleeing to neighboring nations. The conflict in the Philippine city of Marawi has raised fears that the Islamic State group’s violent ideology is gaining a foothold in the country’s restive south, where Muslim separatists have fought for greater autonomy for decades.
Nurmantyo said the idea of the trilateral maritime patrols was initiated by the countries last year to maintain stability in the region in the face of threats such as piracy, kidnapping, terrorism and other crimes in regional waters.
“This trilateral cooperation is needed to anticipate infiltration possibility of IS-aligned militants from Marawi disguised as refugees,” Nurmantyo said in a speech. Philippine military spokesman Brig Gen Restituto Padilla said the coordinated patrols aim to tighten protection along porous borders and prevent abductions at high seas. They will also help prevent the movement of fugitives seeking haven in a different country or planning to provide assistance to jihadists, he said.
He said immigration procedures should also be strengthened since they are the first line of defense in blocking militants who come in through the countries’ airports. “The enemy we face right now is a different breed, and with the presence of foreign fighters in the area — a matter that we are trying to validate and prove based on whatever we recover from the field — is part of that continuing concern,” he told reporters in the Philippines. He was referring to the reported presence in Marawi of foreign fighters, who he said bring a kind of terrorism seen in the Middle East but not practiced by local militants.
Thousands of troops and police are struggling to end the 28-day siege by Muslim militants aligned with the Islamic State group. Officials said the fighting has left at least 26 civilians, 257 militants and 62 security forces dead. Monday’s opening ceremony of the joint patrols was held on board an Indonesian warship and was attended by security officials from Singapore and Brunei, who acted as observers.
Authorities in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslimmajority nation, have carried out a sustained crackdown on militants since bombings on Bali in 2002 by al-Qaeda-affiliated radicals that killed 202 people. In recent years, it has faced a new threat as the rise of the Islamic State group in the Middle East has breathed new life into local militant networks and raised concerns about the risk of Indonesian fighters returning home from fighting with IS.
South Korea will move away from nuclear energy and will not seek to extend the life of existing plants.
He also vowed to cut South Korea’s reliance on coal. South Korea will shut 10 old coal power plants and stop building more coal power plants.
“So far South Korea’s energy TOKYO, June 19, (RTRS): Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will likely reshuffle his cabinet to try to bolster ratings battered by suspicions that he helped a friend get favoured treatment for his business, media reported on Monday.
The Nikkei business daily, citing government and ruling party sources, said Abe would rejig his cabinet in August or September.
Abe will probably retain Finance Minister Taro Aso and close ally Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
policy pursued cheap prices and efficiency. Cheap production prices were considered the priority while the public’s life and safety took a backseat,” Moon said at a ceremony marking the shutdown of the country’s oldest power plant, Kori 1, in Busan, home to South Korea’s largest cluster of nuclear power plants. “But it’s time for a change.” The speech was Moon’s followup on his presidential campaigns to cut coal and nuclear power. Greenpeace and other environmental groups welcomed Moon’s announcement.
Since the Kori 1 reactor went online in 1978, the resource poorcountry added 24 nuclear power plants to meet rising demand for electricity from rapid industrialization and economic development. Last year, a third of electricity in South Korea was produced from nuclear power plants. Its nuclear power production from 25 nuclear plants in 2016 was the fifth-largest in the world, according to the World Nuclear Association.
South Korea is also one of the few countries that have exported its nuclear reactor technology, an area once seen by some of its construction companies as a new cash cow. (AP)