Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines launch join maritime patrol

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"We need to be alert, out of 500 to 600 terrorists there, 257 have been killed but the remainder, according to information we received, have been leaving the conflict areas with the refugees", said Indonesian armed forces (TNI) chief Gatot Nurmantyo on Monday (June 19).

Indonesia today also inaugurated a maritime command centre in the naval base of Tarakan, a town in the province of North Kalimantan on Borneo island, witnessed by defence ministers and army chiefs from the three countries.

Indonesian navy has intensified patrol for security in the sea border with the Philippines after the Islamic rebels occupied Marawi, a city in southern Philippines, last month, fearing that militants might flee the Philippines and will cross the border to Indonesia.

The three neighbors agreed in May 2016 to conduct the joint patrols and share intelligence, after a series of kidnaps of foreigners by the Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist group based mainly in the southernmost Philippine islands who beheaded several victims after ransoms were not paid.

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

The Indonesian Air Force has allocated three Sukhoi jet fighters to help stop Maute terrorists in case they decide to flee from southern Philippines, Indonesian state-owned news agency Antara reports. Gen. Restituto Padilla said the coordinated patrols aim to tighten protection along porous borders and prevent abductions at high seas.

He said immigration procedures should also be strengthened since they are the first line of defense in blocking militants who come in through the countries' airports.

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