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Counter-Terrorism Financing Summit 2016 in Indonesia pledges to cut sources of Terror Funding

73 Malaysian nationals have joined or attempted to join extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, and at least 19 have been killed

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A picture from the summit Image source: straitstimes.com
  • The Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit was held from August 8- 11 August 2016
  • The summit was held in Bali, Indonesia and was co-hosted by Australia’s and Indonesia’s financial intelligence agency
  • Several countries have pledged to cooperate in strengthening intelligence efforts by cutting off funding sources of terrorists, even if they change their methods

Nusa Dua, Indonesia, August 14, 2016: The Counter-Terrorism Financing (CTF) Summit that was held from August 8 – 11 August 2016 brought together leaders and experts in counter-terrorism financing and financial intelligence from 26 nations to deliver the first Regional Risk Assessment on Terrorism Financing.

The summit was held in Bali, Indonesia and was co-hosted by AUSTRAC, Australia’s financial intelligence agency and its Indonesian counterpart financial intelligence unit Pusat Pelaporan Dan Analisis Transaksi Keuangan (PPATK). They co-led the research and development of the regional risk assessment, with contributions from the FIUs of Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. With all the reports, they were successful in identifying and understanding the full extent of the threats posed by terrorism financing in the region of Southeast Asia and the Australian region.

With all the reports, they were successful in identifying and understanding the full extent of the threats posed by terrorism financing in the region of Southeast Asia and the Australian region. The four major financial risks to the region were identified as- self-funding from legitimate sources, at-risk non-profit organisations (NPO), fundraising through social media and crowdsourcing, and criminal activity. The risks were assessed in a 48-page document titled- the Terrorism Financing Regional Risk Assessment 2016 report that was published at the meeting.

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When one path is disrupted, terrorists adapt and change their financing methods. Now, the use of stored value cards has increased. The cards can be loaded with cash or through any non-reportable electronic method and easily carried to another country. Cards can be reloaded remotely and anonymously by third parties, meaning that the face value of some cards can understate their value, said the Benar News report.

The report stated that Indonesia is at high-risk zone for each of the four sources. Malaysia for self-funding from legitimate sources and fundraising through social media; while Thailand is at high-risk for self-funding and also at-risk through non-profit organisations.

According to Benar News report, Indonesia faces a high threat of terrorism due to the involvement of Indonesians in the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, while the status of risk in Malaysia elevated because of threats posed by IS and foreign terrorists.

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Bali summit agrees to stronger collaboration to combat terrorism financing Image Source: thejakartapost.com
Bali summit agrees to stronger collaboration to combat terrorism financing Image Source: thejakartapost.com

“Malaysia continues to be a transit country for recruits for terrorist groups active in other countries,” the report said. 73 Malaysian nationals have joined or attempted to join extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, and at least 19 have been killed, reported Benar News.

The primary method for a tactical, short-term purposes for small-scale attacks in Malaysia is self-funding. The report also stated that a terror group in Indonesia used legitimately sourced funds to finance military training.

Though Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) in Thailand have diverted money to fund various groups in the country’s Deep South, the level of misuse of NPOs to fund terrorists is lower than expected across the region, stated the report.

Malaysia’s efforts to eradicate terror funding was praised. “in contrast to many regional countries, Malaysia has conducted a comprehensive risk assessment of the sector and has adopted target approaches to risk mitigation.”

Calling the online faction of terrorist funding largely opportunistic, the report states that terrorists are more likely to use it for communication to solicit and broadcast calls for funding rather than actually collecting funds through social media.

Criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom, theft and robbery remain a key source for funding terrorist groups. The report stated, militants in Indonesia rely on the violent robbery to raise funds while in Thailand, they mainly depend on extortion to raise funds, though they also steal cars and smuggle oil to raise money.

Several countries have pledged to cooperate in strengthening intelligence efforts by cutting off funding sources of terrorists, even if they change their methods. They have outlined a roadmap to combat terrorism in the next Summit that is slated to be held in Malaysia, next year, in 2017.

– prepared by Ajay Krishna of NewsGram. Twitter: @ajkrish14

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Thousands Displaced as SDF Targeting Civilians Advances on Last IS Territory in Syria

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

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A U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter stands atop a hill in the desert outside the village of Baghuz, Syria, Feb. 14, 2019. VOA

Islamic State (IS) fighters are targeting civilians who are trying to flee the last territory held by the terror group in eastern Syria, U.S.-backed forces told VOA on Thursday.

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led alliance, said that IS militants hit a road used by civilians to escape violence as the battle to free the town of Baghuz in Syria’s Deir el-Zour province enters its sixth day.

“IS has blocked that road to prevent civilians from coming to the SDF,” SDF fighter Ali Ahmed said. “They have targeted civilians there, but we have responded to their attacks against civilians.”

Ahmed said that some families of IS fighters are among the fleeing civilians.

Located near the Iraqi border, Baghuz is the last stronghold held by IS extremists in Syria. With the help of the U.S.-led coalition, SDF fighters have pushed out IS from all territories it once held since 2014.

Fierce fighting between IS militants and the U.S.-backed fighters continues as the latter try to gain ground on Baghuz on several fronts.

“We have two main obstacles as we advance on Baghuz,” Mustafa Bali, an SDF spokesperson, told VOA. “The first one is that [IS] terrorists are holding on to a number of civilians to use them as a bargain chip for their exit.”

Bali said the second obstacle for the SDF forces is that IS has a number of hostages who had been arrested and detained by the militants.

IS controls about 5 square kilometers of territory inside the Syrian town, local military officials said.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview. VOA

Ivan Hasib, a Syrian reporter covering the battle, told VOA that he witnessed an unusual movement by U.S. military vehicles in the area.

“It seems that even the Americans are trying to rescue those civilians and hostages from IS,” Hasib said in a phone interview.

He said the remaining IS fighters in Baghuz are hoping to exchange hostages for a safe exit into the Iraqi desert.

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“There must be some sort of negotiations between IS and SDF about the hostages, because even [U.S.-led] coalition airstrikes have stopped since Tuesday night,” Hasib said, adding that SDF fighters were forced to pause their military operations on the northeastern front in Baghuz.

“We can’t start marching toward it from this side because of civilians. Many civilians are using this road to this side. So we’re here to protect them,” Mezlum Kobani, an SDF commander, told VOA.

According to SDF officials, more than 5,000 civilians have been rescued from IS in Baghuz. (VOA)