Malaysia, In­done­sia, Phl to con­duct air pa­trols

The Freeman - - NATION -

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia, In­done­sia and the Philip­pines will be­gin co­or­di­nated air pa­trols off the strife-torn south­ern Philip­pines next month to com­bat the grow­ing threat posed by Is­lamist mil­i­tants, an of­fi­cial said yes­ter­day.

The neigh­bors had al­ready launched joint sea pa­trols four months ago in the same area, the Sulu Sea.

Fears have been grow­ing that the Is­lamic State (IS) group is try­ing to es­tab­lish a South­east Asian out­post in the south­ern Philip­pines af­ter gun­men wav­ing the ji­hadists' black flag oc­cu­pied the Mus­lim city of Marawi in May.

They have fought off a US-backed mil­i­tary as­sault for al­most five months and the con­flict has left hun­dreds dead.

There have also been a spate of kid­nap­pings in the Sulu Sea by the Abu Sayyaf, a Philip­pine Is­lamist mil­i­tant group.

A cer­e­mony to an­nounce the pa­trols was held Thurs­day at Subang air force base out­side Kuala Lumpur and was at­tended by de­fense min­is­ters from the three coun­tries.

A Malaysian de­fence min­istry spokes­woman said the pa­trols were aimed at com­bat­ing the threat from "Daesh (IS), piracy and sea rob­beries."

The coun­tries will take turns to lead the pa­trols, with Malaysia start­ing in Novem­ber, fol­lowed by the Philip­pines in De­cem­ber and In­done­sia in Jan­uary.

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