Canberra doubles Jakarta terror aid
SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australia and Indonesia are stepping up their joint efforts to fight terrorism in the region, with Canberra doubling its financial aid to Jakarta.
Following anti-terror initiatives announced by the government ahead of Australia's general election in October, Canberra will now donate $15.5 million (Aust. $20 million) over the next five years to help fund a range of programs.
"We will be working to develop our expanded program of assistance in close cooperation with the Indonesian Government," Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said in a statement released Wednesday.
"It will build a range of key counter-terrorism programs in three key areas -- enhancing the capacity of the Indonesian National Police, travel security and combating terrorist financing -- and address new priorities identified by the Indonesian Government."
This would include helping Indonesia strengthen its airport, immigration and customs capabilities.
The increased funding crystallizes a warming of relations between the Pacific neighbors in the wake of the October 2002 Bali bombings which killed more than 200 people, including 88 Australians.
Australian and Indonesian police and security forces have worked together to help track down the Bali instigators, and those responsible for two subsequent deadly bombings in the capital, Jakarta -- the most recent of which targeted the Australian embassy there in September.
"We want to keep supporting the Indonesian government, the Indonesian police, the Indonesian intelligence services and, of course, the people of Indonesia," Downer told reporters after meeting Indonesia's police chief, General Da'i Bachtiar, Reuters reports.
Downer is making a short visit to Jakarta after attending the opening of a two-day international conference in central Java that focused on religious moderation in Southeast Asia.
"Australia will also continue to work with Indonesia to enhance its capacity to disrupt terrorist financing including through the development of international cooperation arrangements, awareness raising and strengthening the legal framework," the statement said.
Security experts say Indonesia's porous borders and graft among low-ranking official are big weaknesses in its efforts to tackle terror.
The main terror activity comes from Jemaah Islamiya, the Southeast Asia arm of al Qaeda blamed for the Bali attacks and the two bombings in Jakarta.
The group's aim is to set up a fundamentalist pan-Islamic state in parts of Southeast Asia.
Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation but the great bulk of its 190 million populace follow a moderate brand of the religion and the nation's government is secular.