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13.08.2017 12:58 News >> Philippines Lauds Regional Counter-Terror Cooperation

Philippines Lauds Regional Counter-Terror Cooperation

Military chief says working with Malaysia, Indonesia has produced results such as arrest of recruiter.

By Hader Glang

ZAMBOANGA CITY - The head of the Philippine armed forces on Sunday welcomed the arrest in Indonesia of a leading terrorist recruiter and fundraiser.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Gen. Eduardo Ano said the arrest of the suspect, identified only as S.P., was a major breakthrough in the region's counter-terrorism strategy.

He also praised it as a sign of fluid cooperation between the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia.

"This is a major boost to our campaign against terrorism with our counterparts," Ano said. "We are very happy our counterparts are really serious in our counter-terrorism cooperation."

The countries, which sit around the Sulu and Celebes seas in a region that has become a focus for extremism in southeast Asia, have a trilateral agreement on maritime patrols and aerial surveillance to combat terrorism, cross-border crime and piracy.

"We need the cooperation of our neighboring countries," Ano added. "If we're the only one doing it they can just get away so there should be coordinated efforts."

Philippines has been fighting extremists linked to al-Qaeda and latterly Daesh since the 1990s while both Indonesia and Malaysia have problems with extremists.

S.P. is said to work on behalf of the pro-Daesh Maute group that took control of Marawi City in the southern Philippines in May and is still holding out against security forces.

Foreign fighters

According to the Jakarta Post newspaper, he was arrested in the city on Friday over his role in sending fighters to the Philippines and Syria.

During a visit to meet wounded troops at a military hospital in Zamboanga City late Saturday, Ano told Anadolu Agency that foreign fighters were still holding out in Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur province on the island of Mindanao.

"Of the more than 50 foreign fighters who have entered Marawi, around 22 foreign fighters have been killed by our troops but the others we don't know if they're already buried or dead somewhere but for sure there are still remaining fighters there," he said.

The latest figures show 548 Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists have been killed in Marawi since May 23 while 128 government troops and 45 civilians have lost their lives.

More than 350,000 civilians have been displaced by the fighting, according to official figures, nearly 60 percent of which were children.

Ano said 50 to 70 Maute remained in the city and are holding more than 50 hostages.

"We will finish this Marawi crisis as soon as possible," he said. "We will ensure that it will not happen again… We are carefully, deliberately ending this conflict without the loss of lives of innocent people, particularly the remaining hostages."

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao after the siege began. It has since been extended to the end of the year. -



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