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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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New AI can Reduce Risk of Suicide Among Youth

AI can help prevent suicide among youth

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Researchers from USC developed an AI that can prevent suicide risks among youth. Lifetime Stock

In a bid to help mitigate the risk of suicide especially among the homeless youth, a team of researchers at University of California (USC) has turned their focus towards Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Phebe Vayanos, an associate director at USC’s Center for Artificial Intelligence in Society (CAIS), and her team have been working over the last couple of years to design an algorithm capable of identifying who in a given real-life social group would be the best persons to be trained as “gatekeepers” capable of identifying warning signs of suicide and how to respond.

“Our idea was to leverage real-life social network information to build a support network of strategically positioned individuals that can ‘watch-out’ for their friends and refer them to help as needed,” Vayanos said.

Vayanos and study’s lead author Aida Rahmattalabi investigated the potential of social connections such as friends, relatives and acquaintances to help mitigate the risk of suicide.

“We want to ensure that a maximum number of people are being watched out for, taking into account resource limitations and uncertainties of open world deployment,” Vayanos said.

Youth suicide
The AI algorithm can improve the efficiency of suicide prevention trainings. Lifetime Stock

For this study, Vayanos and Rahmattalabi looked at the web of social relationships of young people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles, given that 1 in 2 youth who are homeless have considered suicide.

“Our algorithm can improve the efficiency of suicide prevention trainings for this particularly vulnerable population,” Vayanos said.

An important goal when deploying this AI system is to ensure fairness and transparency.

“This algorithm can help us find a subset of people in a social network that gives us the best chance that youth will be connected to someone who has been trained when dealing with resource constraints and other uncertainties,” said study co-author Anthony Fulginiti.

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This work is particularly important for vulnerable populations, say the researchers, particularly for youth who are experiencing homelessness.

The paper is set to be presented at the 33rd Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS) in Vancouver, Canada, this month. (IANS)