Friday, 12 August 2016

Shanmugam: South-East Asian countries need to step up cooperation to fight extremist terrorism

By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 11 Aug 2016

Countries in South-East Asia need to step up cooperation to fight the threat of extremist terrorism, Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam said at the International Meeting on Counter-Terrorism in Bali.

He called on governments in the region to work together on various fronts, including sharing intelligence and research and analyses on terrorists and security risks.

"We need to establish a common understanding of the security threats facing us, the challenge of home-grown terrorists, including those who are newly radicalised, those who return after fighting in conflict zones, and those who were previously in custody but have since been released," he said.

He added that meetings like yesterday's were important platforms for countries to learn best practices and come up with a set of "agreed approaches which will give greater impetus to the common fight".

The threat of an attack hit home last week when six people were arrested in Batam. The cell leader had planned to fire a rocket at Singapore's Marina Bay.

"When arrested, they had no rockets, and it was not clear they could have gotten rockets," said Mr Shanmugam. "But the intent was there. Firearms were seized from them."

This episode, recent attacks in Malaysia and Indonesia, and the move by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group to produce a newspaper in Malay demonstrate the "clear threat" facing the region, he added.

Observers note that as ISIS loses territory in the Middle East, it may shift its focus to South-east Asia and step up its activities, he said.

Turning to Singapore, he outlined five components of its counter-terrorism strategy. Two hard security aspects - stepped-up vigilance through patrols and closed-circuit TV coverage, and the response of security forces following an attack - are "necessary but not sufficient", he said.

The other three components - countering extremist ideology, promoting community vigilance and international cooperation - are equally important, he added.

He highlighted the importance of SG Secure, a national movement that will be launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong next month. It aims to get people to be aware of their security, and stresses the importance of staying united as a society in the event of a terror attack.

Move to swop biometric info on militants across borders
Singapore holds talks with KL and Jakarta to enhance cooperation on security issues
By Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Indonesia Correspondent In Nusa Dua (Bali) and Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 11 Aug 2016

Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia yesterday agreed that the systematic exchange of biometric information like fingerprints on known militants and terror convicts is a key priority in the fight against terrorism.

Singapore Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam, at separate meetings with his counterparts from both countries, also agreed that regular sharing of best practices in deradicalisation and countering violent extremism was a top priority, his ministry said in a statement.

The meetings come after Indonesia arrested six people in Batam last Friday over a terror plot to launch an attack on Singapore's Marina Bay using a rocket.

In his meeting with Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Mr Shanmugam discussed ways to further enhance cooperation between regional security and intelligence agencies.

Mr Shanmugam discussed similar concerns with Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto, whose officials also updated him on the recent arrests in Batam.

"We have been cooperating with each other," Mr Shanmugam told reporters. "But as tactics evolve, we need to also meet and discuss."

They were at a one-day International Meeting on Counter-Terrorism in Bali, where officials from 23 countries discussed ways to counter foreign terrorist fighters and their movement across borders.

Security agencies are concerned about the threat posed by more than 1,000 fighters from South-east Asia who have joined terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as by several hundred terror convicts in Indonesia whose jail terms end in the next few years.

Indonesia's National Counter-Terrorism Agency chief Suhardi Alius told the conference that the Bali terror attacks in 2002 that killed 202 people, and those in 2005 that killed 20, were "the result of" Jemaah Islamiah (JI) members training in Afghanistan in the 1990s. He said: "The government does not want this to recur with the return of Indonesians from Iraq and Syria."

Last month, Malaysia said its immigration department was working closely with Indonesia to prevent returning fighters and terror convicts from entering its borders.

Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia have adopted biometric passports for their citizens, and have biometric capture capabilities as part of their border control systems.

Yesterday, Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry said exchanging biometric data is crucial to deter and detect terrorists crossing borders.

"Given the transnational nature of terrorist networks and the attraction of ISIS propaganda, it is critical to deny terrorists ease of movement across borders and new recruits from among prisoners being released," it added.

Professor Rohan Gunaratna of Singapore's International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research said systematic exchange of biometric data is key. He cited how several JI members fled Singapore and travelled in the region after a 2001 crackdown on the group, before being nabbed.

"Counter-terrorism cooperation between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia is critical for the stability and security of all three countries," he added.

The Bali meeting also discussed ways to counter extremist messages online, which have enabled groups like ISIS to attract new recruits, as well as ways to stem the flow of terror funds and weapons across borders.

World terror experts vow to fight terrorism together at Bali meeting
They vow to boost enforcement, cooperate in managing borders to prevent terrorist movement
By Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Indonesia Correspondent In Nusa Dua (Bali) and Arlina Arshad, Indonesia Correspondent In Jakarta, The Straits Times, 11 Aug 2016

Top security officials from around the world yesterday vowed to strengthen law enforcement and cooperate in managing borders to counter terrorism that "respects no national boundaries".

More effective management of airports, seaports and other border crossing points is needed, they said, as "the global war on terror enters a new chapter" with growing threats from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremist network.

"Ministers underlined the importance of effective control of states over their borders to prevent cross- border movement of terrorists and their goods, funds and material," said a statement released at the close of the International Meeting on Counter-Terrorism in Nusa Dua, Bali, yesterday.

The officials also condemned the heinous acts of terror that have struck a number of countries, including Indonesia, and reaffirmed their commitment to combat terrorism "in all forms and manifestations".

The full-day conference, hosted by Indonesia and jointly organised with Australia, brought together 140 representatives from 23 countries, including Singapore, the United States, Russia, China and Malaysia, as well as Asean, Interpol and the United Nations.

Among them were the US Department of State's acting coordinator for counter-terrorism Justin Siberell, Singapore's Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam, and Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Indonesia has been the target of several terror threats in recent months, and counter-terrorism police have launched a crackdown on people with suspected links to ISIS.

A Jan 14 terrorist attack in Jakarta killed eight people, and a July 5 suicide attack near a local police station in Solo city killed the bomber and injured a policeman.

Just last Friday, Indonesian police nabbed members of a little-known terror cell called Katibah GR or Cell GR, including its leader who plotted to fire a rocket from Batam at Singapore's Marina Bay.

Indonesian Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Wiranto said officials have "agreed on the importance of prevention efforts across borders in a comprehensive manner".

"These efforts include the prevention of terrorist movement, the abuse of the cyberworld for terrorist purposes, trafficking of weapons and cross-border funding," he said.

"If we do not cooperate, we would be beaten by the terror network."

During the meeting, the officials demanded measures to cull the supply of weapons to terrorists, including small arms, light weapons and deadly materials to build explosive devices.

Officials also raised concerns over the ease of access to information on the Internet, which allows terrorists to spread their propaganda, recruit new members and "lone wolves", and teach them how to make bombs or explosive devices.

They also noted that the advance of information technology could ease the transfer of funds to terror groups to support their cells in conducting attacks in other countries.

"Therefore, ministers are encouraged to strengthen concerted efforts to develop counter-narratives, involving private sectors and civil society while respecting the rule of law and human rights," the statement added.

In his keynote speech, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said "terror attacks take lives, impact the economy and hurt a country's image".

Terror groups increasingly channelling funds into South-East Asia
The Straits Times, 11 Aug 2016

NUSA DUA (Bali) • Security ministers from the more than 20 countries meeting in Bali have been told that groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are increasingly channelling funds into South- east Asia to finance terrorism.

A regional risk assessment jointly done by Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Australia also warned that the use of charities and non-profit groups to support terrorism was rising.

Indonesia's financial intelligence agency - the PPATK - estimates that foreign sources transferred more than US$763,000 (S$1 million) to fund terrorism in the country between 2014 and last year.

"Given only small sums are required to stage a deadly attack, even modest amounts of funding from foreign terrorist groups pose a significant risk to the region's security," the assessment said. "The cross-border movement of cash is the highest-risk method of moving terrorism funds across the region."

The assessment also said porous land borders and close maritime boundaries allow extremists and terrorist networks in parts of the region to move funds across borders with ease, adding that poor visibility over cash smuggling routes compounds the problem.

Mr Scott Stewart, vice-president for tactical analysis at US-based private-sector security firm Stratfor, said that while the regional terrorism threat had fallen a notch since the Bali attacks, cells with the ability to conduct small-scale attacks using pipe bombs and firearms remained a concern. "They have really been able to take out a lot of the experienced terrorist cadre," he said by phone.

While it did not take much to carry out a small attack, Mr Stewart said part of limiting that threat was following the money. "If the money is allowed to flow in freely, that is going to give them a lot more latitude to not only pay recruits, (but also) to bribe officials, acquire the raw materials to construct bombs, buy cars, safe houses and other things," he said.

The report called for deeper intelligence cooperation and strengthening domestic and regional frameworks to help underpin efforts to counter terrorism financing. It also warned that small funds sent through the banking and remittance sectors were hard to distinguish from ordinary transactions.

Addressing the increase in the frequency and severity of terrorist attacks globally in a speech at the summit yesterday, Australian Justice Minister Michael Keenan said individuals unknown to the authorities were becoming radicalised and carrying out violent attacks.

"International terrorism will be generational; it will confront us for decades to come," he said. "We must work closely and in collaboration with regional and global partners to disrupt terrorism financing and to combat this threat. Large terrorist organisations such as ISIS rely on networks and facilitators enabled by criminals, corrupt officials and others co-opted or wilfully blind to their endeavours, both within and outside their territory."


26 nations vow to curb cross-border terror funding
By Wahyudi Soeriaatmadja, Indonesia Correspondent In Nusa Dua (Bali), The Straits Times, 12 Aug 2016

Delegates from 26 nations have pledged to increase the sharing of information in a bid to curb the flow of financing for terrorism.

"Terrorism will not thrive without funding and financial support," Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs, Mr Wiranto, said in a speech at the conference.

Increased efforts to counter terrorism financing come as security officials worldwide face ever-changing ways of funding terrorism, while the threat of bloody attacks remains.

"There is no regulator... so it is very difficult for us to know where the money comes from," Indonesia's Financial Transactions and Analysis Centre chief Muhammad Yusuf told reporters in Bali.

The delegates also agreed to conduct an in-depth study of the movement of cash across borders to improve efforts to disrupt it.

The commitments were put down in detail in the three-page Nusa Dua Statement, issued at the end of the four-day counter-terrorism financing conference here in Bali yesterday.

The conference was held at the same time as another forum focused on ways to improve cross-border monitoring and the sharing of views and experiences on combating radicalisation.

The Nusa Dua Statement says the participating states, which include Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand, will "establish a model to enable information on persons of interest and their financial activity to be shared in near 'real time' between participants".

Overseas fund transfers into Indonesia in 2014 and last year that were allegedly linked to terrorism amounted to well over 10 billion rupiah (S$1.02 million). About 6 billion rupiah of that came from Australia through terror supporters operating under the guise of charities, according to PPATK, Indonesia's anti-money-laundering agency.

The funds were used to help finance the living costs of widows and families of slain terrorists, buy weapons from the southern Philippines, fund paramilitary training and promote violent ideology by way of gatherings and discussions.

A committee will also be set up to address the problem of so-called "lone wolves" who do not reach out to terror groups for funding, but pay for their attacks themselves. The assessment of higher-risk non-profit organisations will be conducted by each nation to disrupt the activities of risky groups.

The counter-terrorism conference was attended by 240 security officials, experts and professionals from around the world. Four working groups focused on: A regional risk assessment of terrorism financing; financial intelligence information exchange; regional educational tools on terrorism financing; and information technology expertise. The Nusa Dua Statement was based on reports from these groups.

The other conference, the International Meeting on Countering Cross-Border Movement of Terrorism, which was held on Wednesday, produced a statement vowing to strengthen law enforcement and cooperate in managing borders to counter terrorism.

This week's counter-terrorism financing conference in Bali is a follow-up to the inaugural Counter-Terrorism Funding Summit held in Sydney last year. The annual events are co-organised by PPATK and the Australian Financial Intelligence Agency.

Fund transfers have been instrumental in financing the trips of Indonesians going to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and many have not been detected.

In Brunei, the authorities are investigating a person found making fund transfers to a "certain group" in Syria, Mr Hamdan Abu Bakar, Brunei's director of its internal security department, said at the conference.

Some overseas funds were detected only after they were invested in businesses in Indonesia, according to PPATK. The militant network approached local entrepreneurs, became their partner to help grow their businesses and used the profits to finance terrorism.

The International Meeting on Counter Terrorism, Bali - Intervention by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

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