Australia has warned the militant Islamic group Jemaah Islamiyah is still capable of waging an attack on the scale of last year's Bali bombings, despite successful counter-terrorism measures in the region. The warning comes at the end of a three-day summit on terrorism, in the north Australian city of Darwin.
Counter-terrorism experts from 17 countries, including Southeast Asia, the United States, Russia and Japan, have spent three days at the first-ever ASEAN Regional Forum on combating terrorism.
Delegates ended the forum by drafting an action plan for better cooperation in the event of a terrorist attack in the Pacific Rim. It will be presented to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit of regional leaders in Cambodia later this month.
Australia's new ambassador for counter-terrorism, Nick Warner, says the plan outlines practical cooperation to respond in the aftermath of a terror attack, including joint training exercises and search and rescue operations. "This meeting, this conference, has sought to look in real detail at how regional countries would respond," he said. "What are their capacities, what are their weaknesses, what are the areas where countries like Australia can step in and take action?"
The region's top concern is Jemaah Islamiyah which seeks to create a pan-Islamic state across much of Southeast Asia. It has been implicated in the October's Bali bombing, which killed 202 people, many of them Australian tourists.
At least 150 JI members have been arrested, which officials say significantly degrades the militant group's capacity to launch a terror attack.
But despite these successes Ambassador Warner warns that terrorist cells continue to operate in Southeast Asia, and it only takes a few fanatics to carryout an attack that could kill many innocent civilians. "Terror cells continue to exist, continue to operate, continue to plan terrorist operations in the region, and that you can't rule out the possibility that a group like Jemaah Islamiyah retains the capability to carry out an attack on the scale of Bali," said Mr. Warner.
Delegates also toured the Royal Darwin Hospital, which played a major role in treating and evacuating many of those injured in the Bali bombings.