ASEAN to boost reg'l anti-terror efforts following MSU blast

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

December 8, 2023, 3:22 pm Updated on December 8, 2023, 5:12 pm

MANILA – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) vowed to strengthen regional cooperation to counter terrorism in the wake of the deadly explosion at Mindanao State University in Marawi City that killed four and injured dozens last Sunday.

The foreign ministers of the 10 ASEAN member states issued a statement on Friday strongly condemning what it described as a “heinous terrorist attack” last Dec. 3.

“We stand in solidarity and are ready to work with the Government and people of the Philippines during this difficult time,” it read.

“We also reaffirm our commitment to continue, strengthen, and enhance regional counterterrorism cooperation to prevent recurrence of terrorist incidents in the future."

The foreign ministers extended deepest condolences to the bereaved families and affirmed support for the country’s efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Authorities have arrested one of the suspects Jafar Gamo Sultan alias "Jaf" and "Kurot" during an operation in Barangay Dulay Proper in Marawi on Wednesday.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said he was the companion of a certain Omar, the person identified by witnesses to have placed the improvised explosive device at the MSU gymnasium.

The suspect's possible links to the local terrorist group Daulah Islamiyah - Maute is under investigation.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said it is looking forward to working closely with the country's ASEAN neighbors to share actionable intelligence to prevent future terrorist attacks.

"We are grateful for the solidarity shown by the ASEAN community. While we have started our efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, we welcome any future assistance that the ASEAN may extend to further enhance intelligence to prevent any similar incident from happening again," DOJ spokesperson Mico Clavano said in a message to the media.

"Rest assured, we are committed to establishing peace and order in our beloved country." (With a report from Benjamin Pulta/PNA)