Indonesia launches patrols with neighbours in lawless waters

TARAKAN, Indonesia: Warships from Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia held manoeuvres on Monday in waters plagued by insurgency and banditry off north Borneo, launching coordinated patrols in a region where IS influence is growing.
Helicopters and surveillance planes flew overhead as ministers and army chiefs from the countries attended ceremonies to launch the patrols, with security taking on added urgency after militants overran a town in the southern Philippines.
The Philippine military has said that some of the militants, both domestic insurgents who have pledged allegiance to IS and some foreign fighters, may have mingled with evacuees to slip away during the battle for Marawi City that has raged for almost four weeks.
“We need to watch out for the 500 to 600 terrorists there, 257 of whom have been killed already. The rest, based on information we are getting, are blending in with refugees to get out,” said Indonesian military chief Gatot Nurmantyo.
The spectacular collapse in security in the southern Philippines has alarmed neighbours such as Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia has deployed three Sukhoi fighters to help with security in case militants try to flee southwards towards Indonesia, the head of the Tarakan air base, Colonel Didik Krisyanto, told the state news agency Antara.
Indonesia 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 the defence ministers and army chiefs from the three countries.
Malaysian defence minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the three countries would increase the sharing of information because what had happened in Marawi could happen elsewhere.
The neighbours would not allow IS “to set foot, even just an inch, in our region”, he said. Maritime command centres will also be set up in Tawau in Malaysia’s Sabah state, also on Borneo, and Bongao in the Philippines. — Reuters