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Aussie leader cites RP for halting IS bid

By Mario J. Mallari and Ted Tuvera

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull cited security authorities, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), for winning the war against Islamic State (IS)-inspired terrorists in Marawi City as he warned that the region should work together if only to frustrate the jihadists’ aim to gain a foothold in Southeast Asia.
In his visit to Camp Aguinaldo last Monday to witness counter-terrorism demonstration by Filipino and Australian troops, Turnbull called for a region-wide united stance against terrorism.
Turnbull stressed that Australia is proud for supporting the Philippines in stumping the Maute-IS group that laid a five-month siege on Marawi City.
Australia deployed spy planes in Marawi City to assist AFP troops in battling the Maute-IS group, led by Isnilon Hapilon, the designated emir or leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Southeast Asia.
Hapilon and his supporters from the Maute-IS group, led by brothers Abdullah and Omarkhayam Maute started the siege last May 23 — occupying key positions in Marawi City. The conflict dragged on until October 23 when the Philippine government declared the Islamic City liberated.

The war resulted in the killing of almost 1,000 terrorists, including Hapilon and the Maute brothers, along with 165 government troops and 47 civilians.
Up to now, however, government forces are still scouring Marawi City –hunting down terrorist-stragglers.
“We are delighted, proud to help you win that war in that city,” Turnbull said, noting how the government is working in order to ensure that such terrorism will not happen again anywhere else in the country.
“We saw how focused you are, countering violent extremism and ensuring that an insurgency like that does not occur again,” he added.
At the same time, Turnbull assured Australia’s commitment in supporting the drive against the IS and its efforts to establish a foothold in Southeast Asia.
“We cannot afford to let them have a foothold anywhere else, let alone in our region, everything is connected. Syria, Iraq, the Philippines, Indonesia, straits of Australia, we are all connected instantly,” Turnbull said.
“We are in the same fight, and that is why now more than ever, the Australian Defense Force, the Armed Forces of the Philippines are working together, supporting each other, learning from each other, fighting the fight, we cannot afford to lose,” he added.
Turnbull said the fight against the threat of IS is global, noting that its fighters are interconnected as shown in the siege of Marawi City, which he noted was quickly ended by the Duterte government, and which was supported by Canberra.
“Many of the fighters for Islamic State that propelled in Marawi were from all over the world. They come from Indonesia or Malaysia, they’ve been to the Middle East, some of them were Arabs from the Middle East, it is a global fight,” he said.
The Australian prime minister said the IS managed to recruit fighters around the world after it initially “developed reputation” and projected an image of invincibility through its conquest of swathes of territories in Iraq and Syria.
No handle flying off
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, raised with President Duterte the topic of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations but which the Canadian leader said did not elicit an adverse reaction from the Philippine president.
In a press briefing at the International Media Center, Trudeau said he personally intimated to Mr. Duterte Canada’s “concern” on the thousands of killings attributed to his anti-drug war minutes before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-Canada summit yesterday morning.
“I actually had an opportunity to have a conversation with Mr. Duterte just before our meeting earlier this morning, in which I emphasized, of course, the people-to-people ties between Canada and the Philippines and the great connections there,” Trudeau told journalists.
“But I also mentioned human rights, rule of law, specifically extrajudicial killings, as an issue that Canada is concerned with,” he added.
Trudeau is the first head of state who openly claimed confronting Mr. Duterte over woes surrounding his drug war amid the Chief Executive’s threat to snub anybody raising it up to him.
The Canadian Prime Minister who claims that his country is trying its best to be a champion of human rights said his fellow Canadians expect him to speak out against the Philippine President.
“Canada has earned a reputation for being able to have a strong, sometimes frank, sometimes firm discussions on rule of law and human rights with partners around the world,” Trudeau said.
“It’s very much what people expect of Canada. It comes as no surprise that we bring it up. I will always bring that up,” he added.
Trudeau reminded Mr. Duterte about his conduct on dealing with the problem of illegal drug trafficking.
“I impressed upon (Mr. Duterte) to respect the rule of law,” Trudeau said.
But contrary to Mr. Duterte’s promise of strongly confronting any foreign leader who would advise him on how to deal with his problems, Trudeau revealed that the firebrand President was actually warm during their brief exchange.
“The President was receptive to my comments. It was throughout a very cordial and positive exchange,” he said.
Ahead of a regional summit in the Philippines, rights groups had urged world leaders to challenge Duterte over what they say are gross abuses.
Rights groups say Duterte may be presiding over a crime against humanity.
Trudeau said Canada had earned a reputation for discussing human rights and the rule of law with other nations.
“This is something that is important to Canadians, and it’s important to the world and I will always bring that up,” Trudeau said, referring to human rights.
The Canadian prime minister added he offered support to Duterte “as a friend to help move forward on what is a real challenge”.
Top leaders the United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU) called regional leaders to respect human rights in confronting narcotics.
Notably, both the UN and the EU have been at the receiving end of Mr. Duterte’s rants for expressing concerns over the series of human rights violations attributed to the incumbent administration’s drug war that has been assailed by international watchdogs of claiming more than 13,000 lives.
UN secretary general António Guterres made the statement during the 9th Asean-UN summit late Monday night. Mr. Duterte was not present during the event.
The UN secretary general urged Asean member states to put a premium on human rights in crafting local policies in fighting extremism and transnational crimes.
“The United Nations stands ready to provide technical support to Asean and its member countries in their efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, and to combat transnational crime, including drug trafficking and people trafficking, through policies able to protect their citizens with effective law enforcement and respect for human rights,” Guterres said. AFP

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