Australia - hosting a regional conference on counter-terrorism - has applauded the efforts of Southeast Asian nations to capture members of the Jemaah Islamiyah militant group (JI). Australia and Singapore are co-hosting the first ever ASEAN Regional Forum on combating terrorism in Darwin this week. Counter-terrorism experts from 19 countries - including members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, the United States, Canada, Russia and Japan - aim to draft a coordinated plan to manage the aftermath of any future terrorist attack.
The top regional threat comes from Jemaah Islamiyah - a terrorist group aiming to create a pan Islamic state across part of Southeast Asia. JI has been blamed for October's Bali bombings, which killed 202 people - the majority Australian tourists. Australia's recently-appointed ambassador for counter-terrorism, Nick Warner, says regional co-operation to stamp out terrorism is good and improving. He commends the efforts of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, which have arrested scores of JI suspects.
"So if you look across the region something like 150 Jemaah Islamiah members, most of them trained and dedicated and determined have been taken out of the equation," says Mr. Warner. "That doesn't mean the threat of terrorism is gone." Mr. Warner concedes that terrorists are still being trained in camps in places such as the southern Philippines, and says it only takes a small number of fanatics to kill a large number of innocent civilians.
He says while tens of millions of dollars have been spent fighting terrorism in the region, resources must be devoted to managing the aftermath of a terrorist attacks. "While it's vitally important to focus a lot of effort on preventing terrorism, it is equally important - for obvious reasons - to focus attention on managing the consequences if a terrorist attack does occur, so yes Australia has taken the lead in this issue," says Mr. Warner.
Australia is hopeful that forum delegates will finalize a draft statement to be presented at the ASEAN summit in Cambodia later this month.