A Sanctuary for Jihadists
By admin February 14, 2017

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The leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is facing worrisome future progressions in Syria and Iraq and is reverting to another area to “recruit, network, train and brainwash a new generation of recruits:” The Philippines. This Islamic ‘vilayet’ in Mindanao contains five predominantly Muslim provinces within the island. Specifically, Basilan, already holds a significant amount of individuals for Asian jihad. This province birthed the Abu Sayyaf Group, a terrorist organization developed during the first generation of global jihadists.

Many Filipino terrorist organizations have pledge allegiance to ISIS, including the current leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group, Isnilon Hapilon. Whereby, he is commander of the Islamic State of the Philippines, going by the name “Abu Abdullah al-Filipini.” The founder of the terrorist organization, Abdurajik Janjalani, was introduced to Osama Bin Laden in the 1980s in which he was funded $6 million dollars to create a Salafist cell in the Philippines. The cell is most known for the bombing of a passenger ferry off Manila Bay in 2004, killing 116 people. Now, Hapilon is of great danger and is on the U.S. Department of Justice list of most-wanted terrorists with a reward of up to $5 million for his capture. IS commanders sought out a base in Lanao, rather than Basilan island as foreign militants would be offered more security and as a “springboard to expand their influence.” Duterte has warned the Islamic-State and the militant groups that new conflict may emerge if they continue to act as a major national security threat.

However, alongside these major terrorist groups, there are many jihadists groups pursuing the same mission. There is one other true ISIS group in the Philippines, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Just recently, in November, al-Baghdadi’s public message urged Islamic State fighters to defend Mosul, their “stronghold” in Iraq. And just last week, he met with commanders in Syria, after a recent targeted airstrike, to discuss the collapse of Mosul and deliberate upon a successor. Both Iraq and Syria have had major losses, whereby the two main cities, Mosul and Raqa, are under attack by US backed forces. Slowly, ISIS will start moving into an uncharted territory, with a fresh base and a new generation of recruits. This is where the Philippines seem the best fit.

Indeed, Filipino Muslims are being targeted as a “serious concern”, after many ISIS recruits and operations have stemmed from the Philippines. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana stated they are “certain that the connections are very strong between home-grown terrorists here and ISIS in the Middle East” and that “there is quite an amount of money being sent here from the Middle East,” speaking of the Philippines. Even technological communication was being intercepted due to the quantity of Middle Easterners coming to this area. Philippine airstrikes have killed many Muslims in the area linked to the Islamic State and wounding many, including Isnilon Hapilon, mentioned previously. The Military Chief of Staff General Eduardo Ano spoke out saying they are trying their best to make it hard for this jihadist groups to “move around and survive”. Jihadist groups across Asia lack “one unifying spiritual leader, and are divided by small rivalries and lack of funds, forcing them to rob, loot, and kidnap to make a living.” Sadly, Mindanao would “transform into a sanctuary” for jihadists in Asia, becoming a place to recruit, collaborate, train, and brainwash a whole new generation.

Read More:

The Philippines: a new source of grass roots for ISIS?

Islamic State leadership targeted in air strike, Baghdadi fate unclear: Iraqi military

Iraq hits IS commanders, Baghdadi fate unclear: statement

Philippines: Airstrikes killed 15 IS group-linked militants
Philippines: ISIS links to home-grown militants are ‘very strong’

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