Speaking at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Sydney, Australia, President George W. Bush said that the nations of the Asia Pacific region fully understand the threat posed by terrorists and their extremist ideology. The two most dangerous groups in the region, he said, are Jemaah Islamiyah, or J.I., and Abu Sayyaf. Both groups have been associated with the al Qaida terrorist network.
Al Qaida helped fund J.I. terrorist attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 bombing of a Bali nightclub, the 2003 bombing of a Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, and the 2004 bombing of Australia's embassy in Indonesia. A senior J.I. leader and al Qaida associate named Hambali worked with senior al Qaida operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on a foiled plot to hijack an airplane and fly it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles, California.
The Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf terrorist group was behind the 2001 kidnapping of seventeen Filipinos and three Americans in the Philippines, one of whom they beheaded. It was also behind the 2004 bombing of a Manila ferry that killed more than a hundred people. That terrorist attack was the worst in the history of the Philippines.
Working with the United States, Asia Pacific nations are following a clear strategy to defeat these groups, said Mr. Bush:
"Nations in the Asia Pacific have arrested and killed key leaders and operatives in networks. . . .In 2003, Hambali was captured, severing the main link between J-I and al Qaida. A few months ago, Indonesian forces tracked down and captured J.I.'s acting emir [leader] and J.I.'s top military commander. In the Philippines, the country's military forces launched a campaign called Operation Ultimatum that is targeting Abu Sayyaf. In this operation they killed Abu Sayyaf's top leader; they found and killed his closest advisor and confidant."
Mr. Bush said that the Asia Pacific nations are also providing economic assistance to struggling communities where the terrorists operate. The purpose of this aid is to strengthen moderate leaders and ameliorate the conditions that terrorists exploit.
The vast majority of people in the Asia Pacific region and around the world, said President Bush, reject extremism and want to live in peace and freedom. "It's in the interests of the United States to actively support these forces of moderation," he said. "And we will do so."