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 Warning over flourishing terrorism camps

Latest News
Warning over flourishing terrorism camps
Sydney Morning Herald, Australia

By Tom Allard
May 3, 2006

TERRORIST training camps are flourishing in the Philippines, with at least 40 hardened Jemaah Islamiah operatives indoctrinating recruits to commit mass casualty attacks across South-East Asia, security sources say.

They have identified the Philippines as the area of most concern in the region, noting that similar training camps have been closed down in both Indonesia and Malaysia.

They said two terrorist groups - Jemaah Islamiah and Abu Sayyaf - ran the camps with the protection of elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has been running a long secessionist campaign in Mindanao.

In the remote south, Mindanao is a short boat ride from Indonesia and Malaysia, and large parts of its jungle terrain are out of the control of the Philippines Government.

"These camps are run by experienced terrorists and the recruits are fanning out across the Indonesian archipelago," said one source. "It is a major, major concern."

As many as 80 senior Jemaah Islamiah members were said to be believed to be active in the camps, although more conservative estimates put the figure between 30 and 40.

They were passing on deadly skills in bomb-making,...

...weapons handling and logistics.

"These camps are still operating. The only question is how many senior Jemaah Islamiah leaders are in the camps," said Neil Fergus, the head of the security advisory company Intelligent Risks.

"In Indonesia and Malaysia, the capability of the terrorists has been seriously hit. But in the Philippines they are replenishing Jemaah Islamiah troops on the ground and sending them out."

While there have been several devastating attacks by terrorists in the Philippines, those attending the camps frequently travel to Indonesia to target Western interests.

For weeks the Federal Government has been warning of a terrorist attack in Indonesia and, over the weekend, Indonesia's counter-terrorism squad raided a home in Central Java in dramatic circumstances.

Two men were killed in a shoot-out and another two arrested, but the Jemaah Islamiah leader Noordin Mohammed Top - Asia's most wanted man - was not at the house, said the Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty.

"The devices … and the material that have been located are similar to the bombs that were used in the second Bali bombing," he told the ABC.

Investigators also seized at the home a laptop computer and SIM cards for mobile phones - material that has gleaned valuable intelligence and may lead to more arrests. It also suggested an attack was in the late stages of planning.

Concerns about the Philippines training camps have increased the urgency of Australian efforts to build counter-terrorism links with a nation stricken by political and economic instability.

The Defence Force is negotiating a historic agreement that would pave the way for Australian soldiers - including the SAS - to train the Philippines military, passing on the reconnaissance skills for which Australia's special forces are renowned. The Herald understands that the Philippines Government is considering a draft of the agreement.

Australia has also offered up to 30 river boats to help track the terrorists and their camps in the impenetrable jungle of Mindanao.

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