Subject: AP: RI, U.S. navies conclude joint exercise

RI, U.S. navies conclude joint exercise aimed at fighting terrorism

JAKARTA (AP): The Indonesian and U.S. navies Monday wrapped up a joint exercise aimed at halting the movement of terrorists into the Sulawesi Sea, military officials said.

The two navies practiced maritime interdiction using two U.S. Navy vessels, a number of Indonesian patrol ships and troops from Indonesia's elite naval special warfare unit, known as the frogman commandos or Kopaska, the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta said in a statement.

The two-week exercise was designed to help personnel from Indonesia's nearby Tarakan and Bitung Naval bases be "more prepared and capable of facing terrorist actions in or through the (Sulawesi) Sea" from neighboring Malaysia and the Philippines, said Indonesian Lt. Col. M. Faisal, chief of Kopaskaat the Eastern Fleet Command.

In the past, the Sulawesi Sea has been a hotbed of illegal weapons smuggling. Muslim militants are also blamed for a long-running campaign of terror against Christians on Sulawesi island.

Lt. Col. K. Comer, the chief of the Office for Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy, said the naval exercises were valuable training that would "increase mutual cooperation betweenour two forces."

Crews practiced such skills as navigation and command and control.

The American and Indonesian militaries have enjoyed close cooperation, especially in the areas of disaster relief and combating terrorism.

In January, the U.S. Pacific Command donated an US$11 million Naval Fleet Hospital to the Indonesian government to increase the disaster relief capability of the Indonesian military. (***)

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