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Australia opens regional summit to fight jihadists

Update: June, 11/2015 - 13:54

SYDNEY — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday urged Asia-Pacific nations to help fight jihadist groups as he opened a regional summit on the issue with a warning that Islamic State has global ambitions.

Abbott told the conference – attended by ministers and representatives of 30 nations as well as well as tech giants Facebook, Twitter and Google – that it was crucial to find methods to tackle the ideology of extremist groups that have drawn thousands of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria.

"You can't negotiate with an entity like this, you can only fight it," he said of the Islamic State group, adding that "this is not terrorism for a local grievance, this is terrorism with global ambitions."

"The only really effective defence against terrorism is persuading people that it's pointless," Abbott said.

"We need idealistic young people to appreciate that joining this death cult (IS) is an utterly misguided and wrong-headed way to express their desire to sacrifice. How this is best done is, of course, the work of this conference."

The two-day summit comes as US President Barack Obama approves the deployment of 450 more military trainers to Iraq, joining an already 3,100-strong mission in the nation, in a cautious bid to reverse gains by IS.

The Sydney gathering follows a similar summit in Washington in February where Obama said nations had to tackle the root causes driving recruitment to such groups.

But the three days of talks did not spell out concrete steps on what measures would be taken.

Topics set to be discussed at the Australian summit include working with social media, industry and civil society groups, combatting terrorist propaganda and the involvement of women and families in any measures.

Australia raised its threat level to high last September and carried out a series of counter-terrorism raids.

It introduced a set of national security measures including criminalising travel to terror hotspots and allocating A$1.3 billion (US$1.01 billion) in extra funding to police and security agencies.

The government is also set to table laws in the next few weeks that will strip dual nationals linked to terrorism of their citizenship.

More than 100 Australians are believed to have joined jihadists in the Middle East and at least 30 have been killed, according to the government. Many have also been recruited from across the Asia-Pacific. — AFP

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