Abbott urges countries to help in fight against IS group
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday urged countries around the world to proactively help fight the Islamic State (IS) group instead of expecting others to do the “heavy-lifting”, as the jihadists eye international expansion.
Speaking at a public lecture on regional security in Singapore, Abbott said the group, which has drawn thousands of people worldwide to fight in Syria and Iraq, could commit “more and worse atrocities as long as even a small minority of people are susceptible to its message.”
Asia-Pacific leaders including Abbott and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have previously warned of the potential formation of a regional arm of IS in Southeast Asia by returning fighters.
“Daesh will seek to expand until it is overthrown. That is what the logic of the caliphate demands,” Abbott said, using an alternative name for the group.
“There are no good options here, but the worst is simply hoping for the best, waiting for something to turn up or expecting someone else to do the heavy lifting,” he said at the lecture attended by academics, diplomats and government officials.
The Australian leader, in Singapore for a two-day visit, lauded the Southeast Asian city-state’s Religious Rehabilitation Group, which counsels and re-indoctrinates jailed militants and youths drawn to extremist views.
IS is “using an online world without borders to brainwash our young people and to accustom them to kill for their cause,” Abbott said.
“Living in pluralist democracies, under the rule of law where killing in the name of God is almost unimaginable, it is hard even to begin to appreciate the motives and methods of an apocalyptic death cult,” he added.
Abbott said there are currently at least 120 Australians fighting with the jihadists in the Middle East, “with about 160 at home recruiting for them and funding them”.
Canberra last September raised its threat level to high and carried out a series of terrorism raids. In December, two hostages died in a 16-hour seige at a Sydney cafe that had been overtaken by a gunman apparently inspired by IS.
Abbott’s government is presently also working to amend the law so as to strip dual nationals linked to terrorism of their citizenship.
Abbott and Singapore’s Lee earlier Monday signed an agreement enhancing cooperation — including in defence, counter-terrorism and intelligence sharing — between their two countries on the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.