SYDNEY - Australia will train Filipino soldiers in urban warfare to combat the spread of Islamic extremism after months of fierce fighting against militants in the country's south, it was announced Tuesday.
Canberra has been aiding Manila against local supporters of the Islamic State group in the southern city of Marawi since September, deploying two AP-3C Orion aircraft for surveillance while helping in information-gathering and analysis.
Defense chiefs in the Philippines on Monday declared victory after a five-month battle there that claimed more than 1,100 lives and destroyed swathes of the city.
While it ended immediate fears that the Islamic State would establish a Southeast Asian base in Marawi, concerns remain about its longer-term intentions and capabilities for the region.
Australia has experience tackling the group in Iraq and Syria and Defense Minister Marise Payne said it was crucial the Philippines had the know-how to keep extremists at bay now that the key fight had been won.
She said Canberra would send teams immediately to provide urban warfare counter-terrorism training.
"The practical training the Australian Defense Force will provide will ensure the Philippines defense force is better able to counter the brutal tactics being employed by terrorists," she said.
"Globally we have seen the effect of extremist ideology and terrorist threats on millions of civilians and it is alarming to see this disruption come to our region."
Payne said the spread of Islamic State-inspired terrorism was a direct threat to Australia and its interests, and Canberra was determined it "cannot establish a geographic foothold in the region".
As part of the boosted cooperation, the two sides will also work together to enhance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance in the south.
They will also bolster maritime security engagement and bilateral maritime patrols and co-host a seminar on post-conflict rehabilitation efforts.
Hundreds of local and foreign gunmen who had pledged allegiance to IS rampaged through Marawi, the principal Islamic city in the mainly Catholic Philippines, on May 23.
They then took over parts of the city using civilians as human shields.
More than 400,000 residents were displaced as near-daily air strikes and intense ground combat left large parts of the city in ruins.
© Agence France-Presse