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Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines launch joint sea patrols

Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines launch joint sea patrols

There has been renewed concern over Islamist activity in south-east Asia, particularly after extremists overran the city of Marawi on Mindanao island, Philippines almost a month ago.

TARAKAN, Indonesia (Reuters) - Warships from Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia held maneuvers on Monday in waters plagued by insurgency and banditry off north Borneo, launching coordinated patrols in a region where Islamic State influence is growing.

Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines launched coordinated maritime patrols on Monday to intensify their fight against Islamic militants who have laid siege to a southern Philippine city.

Indonesia also inaugurated a maritime command center in the naval base of Tarakan, a town in the province of North Kalimantan on Borneo island, witnessed by the defense ministers and army chiefs from the three countries. The maritime patrols will also include air and land elements.

Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists, based in the restive island of Mindanao, have in recent years kidnapped dozens of tourists, fishermen and sailors in the waters surrounding the Philippine's Sulu archipelago, which include the Sulu Sea and the northern limit of the Celebes Sea.

The spectacular collapse in security in the southern Philippines has also alarmed neighbouring countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

A port town, Tarakan is just south of the Malaysian side of Borneo and looks out across to Mindanao in the southern Philippines, a sprawling island that has suffered from hostage taking and piracy for decades.

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"This is a warning so we can be ready to address this together because there are sleeper cells that are in each of our countries", Indonesian military chief Gen. Gatot Murmatyo said at the ceremony.

Earlier, President Duterte warned that extremist group Islamic State (IS) would target Southeast Asian countries after wreaking havoc in the Middle East.

"With this trilateral cooperation it will ease the exchange of information because the speed and accuracy of information is very much needed to put in place measures and anticipate the possible escape of (militants) out of Marawi".

The countries have also established designated sea lanes for ships in the sea route along its borders to prevent militants affiliated to the Isis from fleeing to neighbouring nations.

"The militants might flee the Philippines and were forced to cross the border to Indonesia", Air Force base in Tarakan chief Colonel Didik Krisyanto said.

"One thing that's needed is a common watch list so that all three countries are operating from the same information about who may be unsafe".

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