PH, 2 oth­ers in joint air pa­trols

Sun.Star Davao - - TOP STORIES -

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- In­done­sia, Malaysia and the Philip­pines be­gan co­or­di­nated air pa­trols Thurs­day, Oc­to­ber 12, to in­ten­sify their fight against Is­lamic ex­trem­ists who have laid siege to Marawi City in south­ern Philip­pines.

The start of the air pa­trols comes four months af­ter the three coun­tries launched joint mar­itime pa­trols to pre­vent Is­lamic State (IS) group-aligned rebels in the south­ern Philip­pines from flee­ing to neigh­bor­ing na­tions.

The siege in Marawi City has raised fears that the IS group’s vi­o­lent ide­ol­ogy is gain­ing a foothold in the coun­try’s restive south, where Mus­lim sep­a­ratists have fought for greater au­ton­omy for decades.

Malaysian De­fense Min­is­ter Hisham­mud­din Hus­sein said Thurs­day the con­flict shows that ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions af­fil­i­ated with the IS group have ex­ploited the re­gion’s por­ous bor­ders and linked up with lo­cal ter­ror­ist groups.

He said the air and mar­itime pa­trols are aimed

at “de­ter­ring the use of these back chan­nels and counter the move­ment of vi­o­lent ex­trem­ists and ter­ror­ists across the bor­ders of our three na­tions.” It is es­pe­cially im­por­tant to se­cure the sea lanes be­cause about $40 bil­lion worth of trade tran­sits through the Sulu Seas each year, he said.

Hisham­mud­din said the three coun­tries will take turns each month pa­trolling the seas with air­crews from all three coun­tries on board.

A cer­e­mony at a Malaysian air base launch­ing the air pa­trols was at­tended by the Philip­pine and In­done­sian de­fense min­is­ters, along with se­cu­rity of­fi­cials from Sin­ga­pore and Brunei who acted as ob­servers. Au­thor­i­ties in In­done­sia, the world’s most pop­u­lous Mus­lim na­tion, have car­ried out a sus­tained crack­down on mil­i­tants since bomb­ings on Bali in 2002 by al-Qaida-af­fil­i­ated rad­i­cals that killed 202 peo­ple. In re­cent years, it has faced a new threat as the rise of the IS 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.

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