“15 groups” pledge allegiance to IS: security analyst
More than 15 groups in the Philippines have pledged allegiance to the international terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a Singaporean analyst on security affairs said on Friday.
“In the Philippines, what happened is more than 15 groups pledged allegiance to IS (Islamic State),” Rohan Gunaratna, a Singaporean analyst on security affairs said during PTV-4's Countering Violent Extremism Forum last Friday.
“These include Isnilon Hapilon’s group in Basilan, Sawadjaan’s group in Sulu, Ansar Khilafah Philippines in the SOCCSKSARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato City Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggani) and also the Maute group which has now renamed itself as Islamic States Lanao as (witnessed) by Bangsamoro Moro Islamic freedom fighters,” he added.
In a text message to the Daily Manila Shimbun, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman, said based on what he knows the number of groups who pledge allegiance to ISIS is “less than” 15.
“Less than that is what I know, the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), AKP (Ansar Khilafah Philippines), Maute, Maguid and ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group).
Gunaratna emphasized the impact of these groups’ allegiance to the international terrorist.
“With all these groups embracing a foreign ideology which is the ISIS ideology, we saw that ISIS was able to create a threat landscape in the south of the Philippines,” he said.
He also explains why the international terrorist group chose to establish their caliphate in the Philippines.
“The caliphate was declared in 2014. IS started to expand globally that is beyond Iraq and Syria into Africa, Asia, Middle East and also to the Caucasus,” he said.
“Philippines was selected because they couldn’t establish the province of the Caliphate in Indonesia,” he added.
Gunaratna also mentioned the importance of social media in countering terrorism.
“Social media has been exploited by ISIS. ISIS has developed mastery of social media to communicate (new) generation. I can tell you that the Abu Sayyaf Group now is split into the Basilan section from the mainstream Abu Sayyaf Group but both Abu Sayyaf mainstream and the split section the youth are going online and look at ISIS,” he said.
“You can see that ISIS is deeply influencing these different militant groups as well as the youth population. So there must be effects on the part of Filipino Muslims, such as the young man who spoke in your forum to bring the Muslim youth together and to counter this () of extremism because extremism leads to terrorism. Terrorism is a vicious byproduct of ideological extremism and must be countered,” he added.
Gunaratna said aside from fighting terrorists through the use of security forces, the country also need youths to counter terrorism through social media.
“You also need a group of young highly committed, dedicated girls and boys who are going online and countering this extreme ideology….I think that should be the center message they must constantly state that these are foreign ideologies to our land and we will not embrace it. The most beautiful ideology is from the Philippines,” he said.
“What is most important is for Philippines to keep its local tradition of Islam, which is very beautiful Islam, which has existed for centuries. And not to be influenced by the Middle Eastern forms of Islam because that really doesn’t apply and is not good to resonate well with the people,” he added. Robina Asido/DMS