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12/22/02 - S-E ASIAN NATIONS FIGHT TERRORISM - 2002-12-26

The countries of Southeast Asia have become strong allies in the U.S.-led global war on terrorism. Their governments are breaking up terrorist cells. Their law enforcement agencies are cooperating extensively to root out suspected terrorist organizations.

The Philippines and Singapore are two countries that have cracked down hard on Muslim extremists. Their defense chiefs recently met and agreed to share more information on suspected terrorist organizations. Abu Sayyaf is a terrorist group in the Philippines that has links to the al-Qaida network. Jemaah Islamiyah is also linked to al-Qaida and has organized sleeper cells throughout Southeast Asia. Jemaah Islamiyah is bent on creating an extremist Muslim state in the region.

Since the terrorist attacks on America on September 11th, 2001, both Singapore and the Philippines have been fighting the war on terrorism in their own backyards. Last December, Singapore detained over a dozen suspects and thwarted a plot by Jemaah Islamiyah to blow up the U.S., British, and Australian embassies in Singapore. Many of the suspects had received terrorist training at al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan and at camps in the southern Philippines.

Singapore also helped the Philippines with information that led to the arrest of Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi, a Jemaah Islamiyah leader linked to bombing plots in both countries. And recently, Philippine soldiers captured Abu Baidar, an Abu Sayyaf leader allegedly involved in the kidnapping and beheading of an American hostage, Guillermo Sobero of Corona, California.

Southeast Asian leaders recognize that they must work together to combat terrorist groups of global reach. In the words of Philippine Defense Minister Angelo Reyes, "The [terrorist] threat is international. The threat requires, therefore, regional as well as global cooperation." U.S. soldiers have helped train Filipino troops battling Abu Sayyaf. And for the first time, Singapore joined U.S. and Thai troops in an annual military exercise earlier this year.

As President George W. Bush said, the world cannot live with terrorist networks. The only way to defend against them is to go after them -- "to find them, root them out, and stop them from killing people."