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Bishop announces $24m aid for Pakistan, ‘deeply concerned’ about rise of IS

Visiting Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has announced $24 million aid package for Pakistan that includes help for border areas hit by conflict and natural disasters.

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The aid package includes $8 million to help restore infrastructure damaged by floods and conflict in the restive northwest and southwest.

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Ms Bishop made the pledge during a two-day visit to Islamabad, where she’s holding talks with her Pakistani counterpart on efforts to counter militancy, the future of Afghanistan and the reported rise of the Islamic State group in the region.

“In relation to Daish, we are deeply concerned about the rise of this terrorist organisation that appears to be more dangerous, more complex, more global in its ambitions and reach than perhaps we’ve seen before,” she said.

“The declaration of a Caliphate of parts of Syria and Iraq is a rallying cry for extremists around the world,” Bishop said, referring to Islamic State by the Arabic acronym Daish.

The ultra-radical insurgents have killed at least 2,154 people off the battlefield in Syria since the end of June when the group declared a caliphate in territory it controls, a Syrian human rights monitor said in April.

The killings of mostly Syrians included deaths by beheading, stoning or gunshots in non-combat situations, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, urging the United Nations Security Council to act.

Bishop also said that Islamabad and Canberra were working closely in order to counter extremism.

“Australia is not immune. In fact we believe that there are about 100 foreign terrorist fighters from Australia currently in Iraq and Syria supporting this brutal, barbaric, murderous terrorist organization known as Daish. We have implemented a range of new laws in Australia, and are bolstering resources to our security, law-enforcing and intelligence agencies. We are doing what we can to stem the flow of foreign terrorist fighters and finance to these organisations” she said.

It is Bishop’s first visit to Pakistan as Australia’s Foreign Minister.

She is set to meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and army chief General Raheel Sharif during her trip, to emphasize the importance of Australia’s ties with Pakistan.