Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines launch join maritime patrol

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines launch join maritime patrol

The "trilateral coordinated maritime patrol" was launched amid continuing battles between Philippine troops and Islamist gunmen loyal to the Islamic State group, who have seized part of the city of Marawi in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

The three countries also set up maritime command centers-in Tarakan for Indonesia, Tawau for Malaysia and Bongao for the Philippines-to collect information and coordinate the patrols.

At the same time, Indonesia has deployed three Sukhoi fighters to the borders it shares with the Philippines to guard against insurgency and avert Islamic State (Isis) group-linked terrorists from entering its country.

The Philippine military has said that some of the Islamist militants, who were made up of local insurgent groups that have pledged allegiance to Islamic State but also some foreign fighters, may have mingled with evacuees to slip away during the battle for Marawi City that has raged for nearly four weeks.

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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.

Nurmantyo said the idea of the trilateral maritime patrols was initiated by the countries previous year to maintain stability in the region in the face of threats such as piracy, kidnapping, terrorism and other crimes in regional waters.

"With the trilateral cooperation, it will smooth information exchanges because the speed and accuracy of information is badly needed for an early anticipation, including the possibility of the escape of those who pretend to be refugees from Marawi", he said.

Although a largely maritime-based operation, air and land military assets are also expected to be involved in securing the Sulu Sea, which is located to the north-east of Borneo island and south-west of the Philippines. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the coordinated patrols aim to tighten protection along porous borders and prevent abductions at high seas. Officials said the fighting has left at least 26 civilians, 257 militants and 62 security forces dead.

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The event was also attended by defense ministers from Singapore and Brunai, both acting as observers.

Authorities in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation, have carried out a sustained crackdown on militants since bombings on Bali in 2002 by al-Qaida-affiliated radicals that killed 202 people.

Joint operations by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to fight terrorism and transnational crimes in the Sulu Sea were launched on Monday (June 19) morning from Tarakan island in North Kalimantan.

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