Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have launched a joint maritime operation against Daesh-linked militants holed up in a southern Philippine city.
An ongoing battle between the Daesh-linked Maute group and Philippines’ military in Marawi City in the Philippines has sparked concern in Malaysia and Indonesia that it might force the group members to flee the area and attempt to get into neighboring countries.
The Southeast Asian neighbors’ defense ministers and military chiefs agreed on Monday in the Indonesian city of Tarakan to intensify their efforts in the fight against the Daesh-linked Takfiri extremist militants by launching the “trilateral coordinated maritime patrol.”
The meeting of the three neighbors followed up on an earlier agreement in May 2016 to conduct joint patrols and share intelligence, after a series of kidnaps of foreigners by the Abu Sayyaf Takfiri terrorists, who are based mainly on the southernmost Philippine islands and who beheaded several victims after ransoms were not paid.
The three countries agreed on Monday to set up coordinated maritime command centers in Tarakan for Indonesia, Tawau for Malaysia, and Bongao for the Philippines and collect information and arrange patrols from these locations.
They also agreed to establish designated sea lanes for boats and ships in the seas along the countries’ borders to prevent the Daesh-aligned militants in the southern Philippines from fleeing to neighboring countries.
The recent agreement came amid recent clashes in Marawi, which have raised fears that the mainly Middle East-based Daesh militant group is seeking to extend its reach into Southeast Asia.
“The militants might flee the Philippines and be forced to cross the border into Indonesia,” Tarakan Air Force base chief Colonel Didik Krisyanto said on Sunday.
This image, taken on June 18, 2017, shows an Indonesian delegation arriving at Tarakan Air Base in North Kalimantan to take part in a “trilateral coordinated maritime patrol.”
Fighting has been going on for weeks between Philippine government forces and gunmen flying the black flags of Daesh.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Indonesia, as well, Daesh has a confirmed presence and Indonesian officials say the group has created terror sleeper cells in the country.
Radical militants have launched several terrorist attacks in the country over the past years. The latest incident were two bombing attacks at a bus station in eastern Jakarta on May 24, which killed three police officers. The attacks were claimed by Daesh.
Daesh has been suffering increasing losses in Iraq and Syria, losing the territory it had occupied overrun in the two Arab countries.—Agencies