Australia's Border Force to shift focus to IS influence in Philippines: FM

CANBERRA, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- As the war against Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East begins to wind down, Australian Border Force (ABF) officials at Australia's major airports will shift their focus to the Philippines, according to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

The rise of Islamic State's influence in the southern Philippines city of Marawi is cause for concern for those at Australia's borders, according to Bishop, who said 17 outbound international passengers have been stopped by security before boarding their flights since July 1.

She told News Corp on Wednesday that while the conflict in Iraqand Syriawas dying down, the "consequences" of the victory could result in an influx of IS-inspired foreign fighters into the Southeast Asian and Australian region.

"We are concerned that should (foreign fighters) survive, our fear is they will seek to come back to our region. That may well be the consequence of the retaking of al Raqqa and Mosul," Bishop said.

According to local media, ABF officers were pivoting their focus from preventing Australian jihadis from heading to the Middle East to identifying and stopping those who may be heading to the Philippines or other nearby nations to join the fight in the local region.

Bishop's comments came less than a week after Australia's Attorney-General George Brandis officially listed "Islamic State East Asia" as a terrorist organization.

"Islamic State East Asia seeks to advance Islamic State's ideology and establish a caliphate within the Southern Philippines," Brandis said.

Australia has already committed two AP-3C Orion surveillance aircraft to the region to assist the Philippine government in the fight against local insurgents, while Australian government has also offered to help train Filipino troops.

[ Editor: meng ]
 

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